Ushio Torikai

Rest

Innova 722

 

Gathered/Scatter    1994

Aki Takahashi, piano

 

Bashulli Poco    2002

Continuum:

Benjamin Fingland, clarinet

Renée Jolles, violin 

Caroline Stinson, cello

 

Ever    1997

Renée Jolles, violin

 

Voiced One    1996

Thomas Buckner, baritone

Joseph Kubera, piano

 

Rest   Mixed Choir/SSATBB  

Poem by Christina Georgina Rossetti    2001

Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus, Kenji Ohtani, conductor

 

 

The works on this album are from the mid-1990s to early 2000s and are mostly for small chamber forces—solo, duo, trio—for strings, piano and voices.  They all share a preponderance of extended playing techniques and I am thankful that these challenges have been so well met by such experienced performers.

 

I have composed two works dedicated to victims of war and terrorism following September 11th, 2001: Rest (2001) for mixed choir and Son Bou no Toki (2002) for Japanese Buddhist Monks, featuring a Native American poem, “Many Winters” (released by JVC, 2005).

 

I decided to put Rest on this album not only because it is a vocal work, but more significantly, because it is my strongest statement against violence.  I dedicate this album, Rest, to all victims of war and terrorism in the world.

 

 

Gathered/Scatter    1994

Aki Takahashi, piano

 

Physicality has been a central theme in my music since the 1980s and I have attempted to realize the idea many different ways in my compositions.  Gathered/Scatter has two main themes. The first is the relationship between the performer’s natural, inner rhythms, and his/her own body movements. Growing from this is the second idea — the gathering and scattering of notes. To make these ideas clear, I used simple rhythmic patterns and melodic segments for the development of the piece.

 

Like many composers, I have used the piano to extend my musical vocabulary and take advantage of the instrument’s wide pitch range and expressivity.  Gathered/Scatter is the culmination of several such attempts I have made since the early 1990s.

 

Gathered/ Scatter was commissioned by Aki Takahashi


Pianist
Aki Takahashi made her debut performing the music of Toru Takemitsu while still a graduate student at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music. She is widely acknowledged for her classical musicianship, while her enthusiasm for new music and critical citation for her imaginative interpretations have attracted the attention of many noted composers; John Cage, Morton Feldman, Isang Yun, Akira Nishimura, Somei Satoh and Peter Garland have all created works expressly for her.

Ms. Takahashi held her first public solo recital in 1970 and has regularly appeared around the world since her recitals in 1972 at the Berlin Festival Week and Paris Autumn Festival. Other international venues where she has performed include the Holland Festival, Los Angeles’ New Music America, the Berlin Metamusik, the Lincoln Center Festival, ULTIMA Oslo Contemporary Music Festival and Maerz Musik in Berlin.

 

Ms. Takahashi’s career has earned her a succession of awards including the Kenzo Nakajima Prize (1983, 2003), the Kyoto Music Award (1986), and the Grand Prize at the Japan Art Festival (1973) for her recording, Aki Takahashi Piano Space (Toshiba EMI). A series of Erik Satie concerts she presented in Tokyo from 1975 to 1977 heralded the so-called Satie boom in Japan and resulted in her editing (13 volumes from Zen-On) and recording all his piano works. She further demonstrated her commitment to promoting new music in 1983 with the “Aki Takahashi New Ears Series” in Yokohama, a 15-year endeavor.

 

Bashulli Poco    2002

Continuum:

Benjamin Fingland, clarinet

Renée Jolles, violin 

Caroline Stinson, cello

 

In this composition I treated the clarinet, violin, and cello in two distinct ways: as though they were solo instruments playing simultaneously, and as an ensemble unit.  In this way I tried to exploit the potential for different musical personalities inherent in small ensemble combinations.

 

The work starts with a long sustained unison on high B, followed by a contrasting segment characterized by wide leaps.  The pitches of that section are gradually disassembled into different “faces”, often juxtaposed with nearby small dissonant intervals. I think of this being, in a way, the opposite of counterpoint. Thus intentionally, and not without risk, I ended up using a lot of minor seconds, major seconds and quarter tones.

 

Bashulli Poco was commissioned by Continuum with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency.

CONTINUUM  

Winner of the prestigious Siemens international prize for distinguished service to music and four ASCAP/Chamber Music America Awards for Adventuresome Programming, New York-based CONTINUUM — directed by Cheryl Seltzer and Joel Sachs — was founded in 1966.

After a CONTINUUM concert the New York Times wrote, “Simply put, there is no musical organization in New York that produces more intellectually enticing or more viscerally satisfying programs than Continuum... Year after year, its explorations in 20th-century repertory prove to be not only unusual and unexpected but also important and enduring... This ensemble has a long history of acting in behalf of composers whom others discover years or decades later.”

CONTINUUM’s name embodies the philosophy that new music and old form an unbroken tradition. Aiming to expand the audience for recent music, it has performed throughout the United States, including appearances at the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, at colleges and community series throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, in 25 tours to Europe, ten to Asia, and five to Latin America. In 2008 Continuum made its sixth visit to Mongolia’s Roaring Hooves festival, and in recent seasons has appeared at festivals in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.  CONTINUUM has made 17 portrait recordings for diverse labels. Its concert programs embrace the entire range of music from 20th-century classics such as Ives, Joplin and Webern, to today’s composers from all over the world.

Benjamin Fingland, Clarinet  

With performances capturing “spiritedness and humor,” “unflagging precision and energy” (The New York Times) and playing described as “something magical” (The Boston Globe), Benjamin Fingland interprets many styles of music on a variety of clarinets. An avid proponent of new music, he works closely with many of today’s composers, and has premiered numerous works in recital at such New York City institutions as Merkin Concert Hall and the Museum of Modern Art, and internationally at Japan’s Kyoto Music Festival and festivals in the Ukraine, Russia and South America.

A founding member of the critically-acclaimed new music collective counter)induction, he also performs frequently with contemporary music groups Continuum and Ensemble 21, and has appeared with the New York New Music Ensemble, the Locrian Chamber players, Sequitur and the Argento ensemble. He has also collaborated, recorded, and toured with a wide variety of other artists – ranging in scope from Pierre Boulez and the Ensemble Intercontemporain to jazz legend Ornette Coleman.

Renée Jolles, violin 

 

Renée Jolles enjoys an eclectic career as soloist and chamber artist specializing in a wide variety of styles from the Baroque to the contemporary. Hailed as a “real star” by The New York Times for her New York Concerto debut in Alice Tully Hall, she has premiered hundreds of works, including the American premiere of Schnittke’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Her concerto engagements have included orchestras such as Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, The Philharmonic Orchestra of New Jersey, The Cape May Festival Orchestra, and The Salisbury Symphony.

 

Ms. Jolles is a member of the Jolles Duo, Continuum, The Roerich Quartet, The New York Chamber Ensemble, and is a concertmaster of the world-renowned conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. She has performed at festivals such as Marlboro, Cape May, Rockport (Mass.), Norfolk, Taos, Riverrun, and The Chamber Music and Composers’ Forum of the East.  Ms. Jolles is on the faculty of The Juilliard School, Pre-College Division, The Mannes School of Music, Preparatory Division, and the Bowdoin International Music Festival.

 

Caroline Stinson, Cello 

Winner of the 2007 J.B. Watkins Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts, cellist Caroline Stinson was born in Edmonton, Canada and lives in New York City. As a performer, she appears throughout Canada, the United States and Europe as a soloist and chamber music artist.

Known for her expressive and personal interpretation of new works, Ms. Stinson is sought after by orchestras and fellow musicians for performances of both traditional and contemporary repertoire. As an advocate of new music she has worked with composers John Harbison, George Rochberg and Steven Stucky, and has recorded for Albany, Koch, Phoenix and Naxos.

Caroline is a member of Open End (a new music and improvisation group founded with her husband, composer Andrew Waggoner), CELLO, the Contrasts Quartet, and formerly was a member of the Cassatt Quartet.

Ever    1997

Renée Jolles, violin

 

Ever was composed to commemorate Mr. Kuniharu Akiyama, a leading Japanese contemporary music critic, who was responsible for first bringing Toru Takemitsu to the center stage. Mr. Akiyama was also a most enthusiastic supporter of—and participant in—the Japanese creative scene.

 

I only had about two weeks during my hectic schedule to compose this work, yet all the music flooded into my head just thinking of Mr. Akiyama.  The piece is emotionally distorted in the beginning, with long sustained dissonances one after another, reflecting the shock and grief following his death.  Towards the end it becomes more peaceful, as a prayer for his soul.

 

Ever demands greater technical skill from the violinist than you might imagine: the fingerings and use of perfect fifths on several very fast passages make it fiendishly difficult.

 

Ever is dedicated to the late Mr. Kuniharu Akiyama.

 

Voiced One    1996

Thomas Buckner, baritone

Joseph Kubera, piano

 

Early in my career I had a strong interest in vocal music, especially folk music styles from around the world and for about eight years I studied jiuta, an Edo-era Japanese singing style.

 

In several works from the 1980’s to 1990’s I approached voices as instruments, with a very rich, colorful, and diverse palette of sound possibilities that used the singer’s mouth as an expressive sound tool articulating phonemes rather than words.  Voiced One is a good example of that.  The piano is not regarded as mere accompaniment for the voice but rather is given equal weight as one part of an instrumental duo.

 

Thomas Buckner who commissioned the work remarked “I don’t know why, but even very avant-garde composers tend to write conservative music for voices; but Voiced One is quite cutting edge as a vocal piece.”

 

Thomas Buckner, Baritone  

For over three decades Thomas Buckner has dedicated himself to the world of new and improvised music. A former student of the legendary Metropolitan Opera baritone, Martial Singher, he was trained in the classical tradition and has continued throughout his distinguished career to broaden the scope of his vocal styles, specializing in a wide range of experimental music.

Buckner has collaborated with a host of new music composers including Robert Ashley, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Noah Creshevsky, Annea Lockwood, David Wessel, Tom Hamilton, Leroy Jenkins, Phill Niblock, Matthias Kaul and many others.

He has made solo appearances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Harvard University, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Edinburgh Festival, the Prague Spring Festival, and the Biennale Festival in Venice, presenting a repertoire that includes more than 100 compositions, written for, or dedicated to him. He has been a featured soloist at the Ostrava Days new music festival in the Czech Republic, since its inception.

Thomas Buckner has participated in over 40 recordings, including six solo albums: Full Spectrum Voice [1991], Sign of the Times [1994], Inner Journey [1998], His Tone of Voice [2001], Contexts [2006] and New Music for Baritone & Chamber Ensemble [2007]. The entire discography features newly commissioned works by an impressive array of composers including Alvin Lucier, Muhal Richard Abrams, Tania Leon, Somei Satoh, Petr Kotik, David Behrman and many others, who utilize Buckner’s wide range of musical styles.

Joseph Kubera, Pianoforte   

Joseph Kubera has been a leading interpreter of contemporary music for the past 25 years. He has been soloist at such festivals as the Berlin US Arts and Inventionen festivals, the Warsaw Autumn and Prague Spring. In the U.S. he has performed at UC Berkeley’s Edgefest, Carnegie Hall’s When Morty Met John, and Miami’s Subtropics Festival. He has been pianist in residence at the Ostrava New Music Days (Czech Republic) since its inception in 2001. Mr. Kubera has been awarded grants through the NEA Solo Recitalist Program and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts.

 

A leading proponent of the music of John Cage, Mr. Kubera is one of the few pianists performing the difficult works from the 50s through the 70s. He has recorded the complete Music of Changes (on Lovely Music) and the Piano Concert (on Wergo), and has toured with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at Cage’s invitation. The Joseph Kubera/Sarah Cahill piano duo has premiered new works written expressly for them by Terry Riley, Ingram Marshall and Michael Byron.

 

Mr. Kubera has worked closely with such composers as Alvin Lucier, Robert Ashley, and La Monte Young. Solo recordings include Beth Anderson’s Piano Concerto and Michael Sahl’s Serenades on New World, Lucier’s Still Lives on Lovely Music, and Cowell’s Nine Ings on New Albion.

 

Rest   Mixed Choir/SSATBB  

Poem by Christina Georgina Rossetti    2001

Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus, Kenji Ohtani, conductor

 

In contrast to my habitual use of voice as articulator of phonemes, Rest shows a different side of my writing.  It uses a poem rich in meaning and is set tonally, a rarity in my output.

 

While composing this work, the events of September 11th took place, affecting me profoundly. As a result, this composition became my prayer for peace in the world.

In live performance the singers walk onstage while singing; this opening section has been truncated for this recording.

 

Rest was commissioned by Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus.

 

Rest   Christina Georgina Rossetti   

 

O Earth, lie heavily upon her eyes;

Seal her sweet eyes weary of watching, Earth.

Lie close around her, leave no room for mirth

With its harsh laughter, nor for sound of sighs.

 

She hath no questions, she hath no replies,

Hushed in and curtained with a blessed dearth

Of all that irked her from her hour of birth;

With stillness that almost Paradise.

 

Darkness more clear than noon-day holdeth her,

Silence more musical than any song;

Even her very heart hath ceased to stir;

 

Until the morning of Eternity

Her rest shall not begin nor end, but be,

And when she wakes she will not think it long.

 

Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus  

 

Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus, founded in 1956, is Japan’s foremost independent professional choir. Its members are all graduates from Japanese or European music conservatories and represent the highest level of choral music in Japan.

The chorus holds about 200 concerts annually in Japan, performs with Japanese and visiting orchestras and is frequently engaged in recordings for radio and television. Besides these activities, Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus emphasizes the musical education of children, performs regularly at schools all over Japan and organizes music workshops for young people.

Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus performs a wide range of pieces from different periods and genres, but the core of its work is the commission of new compositions by Japanese composers (over 184).  By performing these works constantly in their concerts, the choir has taken an important role in building up a fundamental repertoire of contemporary choral music in Japan.

Its strong dedication to contemporary music has contributed to Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus’s high acclaim in the national and international music world and has been acknowledged with numerous awards such as the Arts Festival Award of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Mainichi Newspaper Arts Award and the Kyoto Music Award amongst others.

 

USHIO TORIKAI

 

Ushio Torikai is known for her highly individual musical voice, developed over many years of research and compositional experience in diverse musical fields including European classical music, traditional Japanese music, ancient Japanese music and computer/electronics.

 

Ms. Torikai started a concert series of her own music in 1979 in Tokyo, and was invited to the Paris Biennale in 1982. Concerts of her music have since been presented in major cities in Europe, North America and Japan, including at Georges Pompidou Center (Paris), the Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco), and Walker Art Center (Minneapolis).

 

Her compositions vary considerably in instrumentation, ranging from Western orchestral instruments to traditional Japanese ones; computer/electronics to reconstructed ancient Asian instruments; and Western Choir to Japanese Buddhist monks’ chants.

 

Ms. Torikai has received commissions from Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt), the Modern Art Sextet Berlin, the Kronos Quartet, the Ensemble Continuum (New York), the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, the City of Los Angeles, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, and Japan National Theater, to name only a few. Commissioned pieces range from works for concert music and opera to a permanent music installation in a public park.

 

Her career is also characterized by a variety of multidisciplinary collaborations. She has a long history of involvement as composer, in theater, in dance and in multi-media projects. She occasionally writes about Japanese social phenomena for Japanese newspapers and magazines.

 

Ms. Torikai’s albums have been released on JVC: GO WHERE? the compositions on which were realized at IRCAM (the computer-oriented musical research center in Paris), and A UN, a seventy-five-minute work for a choir of forty Japanese Buddhist Monks, Son Bou no Toki, featuring a Native American poem, “Many Winters”.

 

In the early 1980s, Ms. Torikai spent a good deal of effort to introduce Shomyo (Japanese Buddhist monks’ chants), and ancient Japanese music and instruments, to the Japanese contemporary music scene and audience. For example, she is responsible for the reconstruction and reintroduction of the Kugo, an Asian angular harp whose origins can be traced back more than three millennia and had been unused for over 1200 years.  This ingenious yet clumsy instrument (ancestor of modern string instruments) has such a quirky personality (it’s so hard to control because of its design) that it rewards only the most dedicated.  The mission to bring it back to life led to her philosophy of “positivity” — the fundamental human desire to follow our incredible imagination — and that individuals possess their own kind of “music” and beauty unique to themselves.

The intense experience of reconstructing, composing for, and performing on the Kugo taught her very strikingly that the capacity for wisdom is at the core of humanity.  From simple resonating strings, to musical forms, to entire cultures – harmonious and dynamic – this creative impulse is the powerful source of all human activity and interaction.

 

Credits

 

Bashulli Poco” & “Ever” were recorded at Dream Flower Studio, Bronxville, NY

Recording engineer: Jeremy Tressler

 

Voiced One” Recorded at Systems Two, Brooklyn, NY

Recording engineer: Tom Hamilton

 

Gathered/Scatter” Premier Performance recording at Kanagawa Kenmin Hall, Yokohama, Japan 

Rest” Premier Performance recording at Casals Hall, Tokyo, Japan 

Gathered/Scatter” & “Rest” was remixed by Tom Hamilton

 

My Special Thanks To: Thomas Buckner, Shinichi Kobayashi, Joel Sachs, Cheryl Seltzer, Aki Takahashi, Preston Wright

 

This release was supported in part by a grant from the New York State Music Fund, established by the New York State Attorney General at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

 

Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Philip Blackburn: director, design, editing

Chris Campbell: operations manager

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