Robert Een

Hiroshima Maiden

innova 679

 

I visited Hiroshima on my firsttrip to Japan as a college student with my

host and dear friend FumikoTamada. The memory of that experience has never

left me. In 1995, on the 50thanniversary of the dropping of the first

atomic bomb, I wrote a memorialpiece for the victims of Hiroshima entitled

“Ground Zero”. When Dan Hurlinasked me to compose music for his new

theater/puppet piece HIROSHIMAMAIDEN, I immediately thought there might be

a place for this composition,and indeed it came to be a pivotal part of the

score.  The very day Dan and I first sat downin the East Village of

Manhattan to talk aboutcreating HIROSHIMA MAIDEN, in a horrible and tragic

parallel, planes were hittingthe World Trade Towers, barely a mile from

where we were, spawning a newGround Zero.  In HIROSHIMA MAIDEN,voice,

cello, hammer dulcimer, lapdulcimer, vibraphone, marimba, drums and

percussion intersect in musicthat must at once reflect the sorrow and

suffering endured by victims ofthe atomic bomb, as well as the irony of a

small group of young Japanesewomen being brought to the very country that

dropped the bomb for 1950’S“stateof the art” medical treatment. In the

United States these “Maidens”were feted on the network television show THIS

IS YOUR LIFE; featured in LIFEMAGAZINE, in a photo spread heavily censored

by the State Department; andfollowing numerous surgeries, eventually

returned home to a suspiciousreception. I have known Dan Hurlin for many

years and have always marveledat his beautiful and innovative approach to

theater. I was thrilled when heasked me to compose music for HIROSHIMA

MAIDEN, with its clever andirreverent script, its gorgeous sets and

innovative puppets and itsfinely honed sense of choreography. For his keen

sense of timing and pacing thathelped shape the score, and most especially

his passion for this project, Iowe Dan a big debt of gratitude. Working

again with long-time colleaguesBill Ruyle and Jeff Berman was an honor and

a pleasure. Their musicaltalents, subtlety and versatility never cease to

amaze me. I greatly appreciatetheir invaluable contribution to this music.

— Robert Een

 

The very first meeting Bob Eenand I had to discuss the music for my puppet

play HIROSHIMA MAIDEN occurredin a tiny café in the East Village of New

York City, on September 11th,2001. Our meeting was scheduled for around

9:30 am, shortly after theplanes had started smashing into the twin towers.

During our meeting, both of usremained largely unaware of the epic scope of

the destruction that was takingplace just a few blocks south. All we knew

was that something big wasgoing on, and that an inordinate number of fire

trucks and emergency vehiclesracing down Second Avenue was making it

difficult to concentrate on thetask at hand: making a piece of art. When we

left the café and saw one towerstanding where there should have been two,

the enormity of the disasterhit us both full force.

 

In the style of Japanese Bunrakupuppetry, HIROSHIMA MAIDEN tells the story

of the aftermath of a differentcataclysmic event of our modern age: the

dropping of the Atomic Bomb onHiroshima in 1945. Ten years after that

disaster, a group of 25 womenfrom Hiroshima were invited to come to the

United States, to receive thebenefits of America’s advances in the field of

reconstructive surgery, havingbeen disfigured by the radiation that

America’s decision to drop thebomb had inflicted. Upon their arrival in

1955, these “Hiroshima Maidens”became minor celebrities in the USA and were

trotted out in front of themedia on a regular basis (in silhouette to save

them embarrassment) to helpraise both doctors’ fees and Americans’

consciousness. They evenrecorded a pop song called “Smile, Please Come

Back.” In the summer of thatyear they were invited to appear on the popular

television program "Thisis Your Life," where among other people from their

past, the producers arrangedfor them to meet face to face with the pilot of

the Enola Gay – the planethat dropped the bomb on Hiroshima – and by

extension, on them.

 

While neither the puppet playHIROSHIMA MAIDEN, nor the music Bob composed

for it, deal head on witheither catastrophe, both works express in lyrical

and forceful terms, theresulting anxiety and uncertainty of their

respective ages. The constantlycreeping underpinning of the “Overture”

evokes a sad sort of dread thatputs the listener on the edge of his/her

seat. “Pilot’s Prayer” invokesthe tension of a calamity to come, delivered

by airplane. “Broken Waltz” isjust that: a lovely lyrical waltz shattered

to bits in the collapsedaftermath.  “Bureaucratic Tango”rattles on like

the angry steamroller thatcreated the rationalization for the Hiroshima

bombing in the first place, orthe unstoppable bureaucracy and hubris that

created the mindless invasionof Iraq. And the haunting and utterly

devastating elegy “Ground Zero,”eloquently mourns the loss of any life, and

poetically reminds us of thereal, human cost of war. The elegance and

sophistication of Bob’scompositions and structures seduce us absolutely,

and thereby serve to implicateus further in these deep human tragedies.

 

But these musical pieces arenot all despair or rage. There is such a great

sensual pleasure to theselyrical works -- such a depth of feeling. Hope and

humor permeate “Doo Itasimaste”and unbridled loveliness reign over the

“Kimono Dance.” Theconstructions themselves are mathematical quizzes,

dropping counts here and thereas in “Photo Shoot” or repeating themes

asymmetrically, as in “Hesitation,”engaging our minds as well as our

hearts.  Perhaps these pieces ultimately expressa faith in our shared

complexity, our sharedhumanity, and our shared appreciation of beauty. So,

maybe there’s hope for us afterall.

 

— Dan Hurlin

 

 

Robert Een is an acclaimedcomposer, singer and cellist. The recipient of a

2004 OBIE AWARD for his scorefor HIROSHIMA MAIDEN, as well as a 2000 BESSIE

AWARD for sustainedachievement, Een has performed his music on concert

stages and in unusual venuesthroughout the world, including the Buddhist

caves of Ellora, India; theShinto shrine in Tsurugi, Japan; a theater above

the Arctic circle in Norway;the Pushkin Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia;

the Fringe Club in Hong Kong;as well as such New York venues as Lincoln

Center, the Whitney Museum andthe Knitting Factory. THE TUCSON CITIZEN

wrote, “Original and inviting.Een is a conjuring compositional alchemist;”

and in THE SAN FRANCISCOCHRONICLE, “What Hendrix did for the guitar,

freeing it from its previousrole and expectations, Robert Een does for the

cello.” Known for his use ofextended vocal and cello techniques, he has

recorded eight albums: MYSTERYDANCES, EXPANDING UNIVERSE,FERTILE

FIELDS,YOUR LIFE IS NOT YOUROWN, BIG JOE, MUSIC FROM BLUE EARTH, and the

soundtracks THE ROOK and MR.JEALOUSY. His scores for film include; MY

HORRIBLE YEAR, MR. JEALOUSY,TROUBLEONTHECORNER, and THEROOK. His music is

featured in the photographicand film exhibition ASHES AND SNOW. Robert

Een’s music for theater anddance can be heard in the repertories of Dan

Hurlin, Liz Lerman, StephanKoplowitz, David Dorfman, Yin Mei, Brian

Selznick, Jennifer Muller,Yoshiko Chuma, Pearson/ Widrig, Heidi Duckler and

Ron K. Brown, among others. Asa teacher he has been a guest lecturer and an

artist-in-residence atcolleges, universities and professional schools

around the globe. His longassociation with Meredith Monk culminated in

their evening lengthperformance duet, FACING NORTH.

 

DAN HURLIN received a 1990VILLAGE VOICE OBIE award for his solo adaptation

of Nathanael West’s A COOLMILLION, and his suite of puppet pieces EVERYDAY

USES FOR SIGHT: NOS.3 & 7(2000) earned him a 2001 New York Dance and

Performance award (a.k.a. “BESSIE”).His 1992 solo QUINTLAND earned sculptor

Donna Dennis a New York Danceand Performance award (a.k.a. BESSIE) for

visual design, and in 1998, hewas nominated for an American Theater Wing

Design award for his set designfor his music theater piece THE SHOULDER

(music by Dan Moses Schreier).Other performance works include NO(THING SO

POWERFUL AS) TRUTH, (1995);CONSTANCE AND FERDINAND (1991) with Victoria

Marks; THE JAZZ SECTION (1989)(with Dan Froot); and his toy theater piece

THE DAY THE KETCHUP TURNED BLUE(1997) from the short story by John C.

Russell. His most recent pieceHIROSHIMA MAIDEN, with an Obie award-winning

score by Robert Een, premieredat St. Ann’s Warehouse and was awarded an

UNIMAcitation of excellence(Union Internationale de la Marionette). He has

performed with Ping Chong,Janie Geiser, and Jeffrey M. Jones, and directed

premieres of works by LisaKron, Holly Hughes, Dan Froot and John C. Russell

among others. He has receivedindividual artist fellowships from the

National Endowment for theArts, the New Hampshire State Council on the

arts, the New York Foundationfor the Arts, Creative Capital and the John

Simon Guggenheim Foundation.Dan has served on the faculties of Bowdoin,

Bennington and Barnard College,Princeton University and currently teaches

both dance and puppetry atSarah Lawrence College. He has been the

co-director of the Puppet Labat Arts at St. Ann’s for eight years. Dan was

the recipient of the 2004AlpertAward in the Arts for theater.

 

Jeff Berman is amulti-instrumentalist and composer whose work reflects his

global musical vision. Hisgenre bending concept on percussion, vibraphone,

and mountain dulcimer hasallowed him to collaborate, record, and perform

across stylistic boundaries,with a diverse group of artists from all over

the planet. His music has beendescribed as “a worldly folk-jazz”, and has

been used for performance,dance, and film.

 

Bill Ruyle has been apercussionist/composer/collaborator for new music,

dance, and theater in NYC andabroad since 1974. He has performed with the

ensembles of Peter Zummo, JonGibson, Peter Gordon, Bill Obrecht, Scott

Johnson, Phillip Johnston, “Blue”Gene Tyranny, Robert Een, Naaz Hosseini,

The Feetwarmers, The ManhattanMarimba Quartet, Last Forever with Dick

Connette, Newband,Counter(induction, and The Hudson Valley Philharmonic.

His own compositions have beenperformed nationally and internationally.

Bill has taught in manyeducational outreach programs including The Music

Advancement Program at theJuilliard School, Lincoln Center Institute, and

Link Up! at Carnegie Hall. Hewas introduced to the hammer dulcimer by his

father, who built one for fun.

 

ROBERT EEN voice, cello,Chinese gong

JEFF BERMAN lap dulcimer,vibraphone, marimba, percussion

BILL RUYLE hammer dulcimer,Tibetan singing bowl, percussion

ALL MUSIC ©2004 ROBERT EENASCAP RECORDING ENGINEER John Guth

RECORDED January 26, 2004COMMISSIONED BY Dan Hurlin and the Red Wing

Performing Group. CD DESIGNDeMarinis Design LLC

PORTRAITSBY Brian Selznick(after Yoshitoshi)

INNOVA DIRECTOR PhilipBlackburn OPERATIONS MANAGER Chris Campbell

 

Innova is supported by anendowment from the McKnight Foundation. Funded in

part by a grant from the NewYork State Music Fund, established by the New

York State Attorney General atRockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

www.roberteen.com