Suspended in Amber

Suspended in Amber

"Slow moving and enchanting" with "hot crickety sounds", Japanese shô, processed sounds, ondes Martenot and a roomful of tuned silk strings amplified by paper cups.
Sarah Peebles
Sarah Peebles
Kazue Mizushima
Bugaku Percussion Ensemble
Hiromi Yoshida
Ikuo kakehashi. Ko Ishikawa
Takashi Harada
Catalog Number: 

Tokyo, Japan

Release Date: 
Dec 20, 1994
Liner Notes: 
Digital Only
One Sheet: 

Suspended in Amber is a collection of unusual and compelling collaborations developed in 1992-1993 by Toronto composer/performer Sarah Peebles, and a wide-ranging selection of Tokyo-based artists: Takashi Harada (ondes Martenot), Kazue Mizushima (sound installation/performance), Kô Ishikawa and Hiromi Yoshida (shô), and Ikuo Kakehashi (percussion). The works on this CD represent a variety of styles ranging from written composition, to "comprovisation" and performance-art, to pure improvisation.

Sounds sampled in Japan and North America's rural and urban environments intermingle with traditional Japanese instruments, sound installations, vintage electronics, and ambient rural soundscapes. At the heart of the CD are works recorded during “Transforming Temple”, a concert at Shukohji, a small temple set in a semi-rural pocket of Kawasaki’s urban sprawl. The concert experience, sequenced to take the audience on a journey from outdoors to indoors and back out again, highlights the soundscape of Shukohji’s ringing Autumn insects intermingled with acoustic instruments and amplified sound, where shifting placement of the temples’ traditional sliding doors and moving performance locations accentuate the relationships of sound sources — masterfully recorded by Tsotomu Sudo. Influences of gagaku (court music), folk toys and the sounds of displaced creatures create an evocative, sometimes bizarre, and often poignant sonic experience. 

Performers and co-creators on Suspended in Amber represent a sampling of some of Japan's finest experienced, as well as emerging talents. Takashi Harada (appearing courtesy of JVC), internationally-acclaimed performer on the ondes Martenot, has appeared with leading orchestras, and has extensively performed and composed for NHK and numerous other musical groups. His repertoire covers a wide range of 20th-century works and runs the gamut of musical genres. Praised by Alvin Lucier as "one of the most talented and original young composers in the world today", Kazue Mizushima is gaining stature as one of Japan's most intriguing installation artists and composers of her generation, with works spanning concert hall, outdoor, theatre, dance and performance-art contexts. Among a small and virtuosic number of exponents of new music for gagaku and revived ancient instruments, are Ishikawa Kô and Yoshida Hiromi, who have performed works by such composers as Takemitsu, Ichiyanagi, Hosokawa and Cage throughout Japan and internationally, and who regularly premier new works for ensembles of ancient and revived instruments at The National Theatre of Japan, with Reigakusha and other ensembles. The collaborative contributions of percussionist Kakehashi Ikuo, bugaku (court) dancer Morimoto Mie, calligrapher Kaieda Harumi and video installation artist Higuma Haruo are also central to the creations presented here.

Sarah Peebles has composed for electroacoustics, small ensemble, dance, animation, inter-disciplinary collaborations and music-theatre. Exploring alternate performance settings, such as museums, bamboo groves, temples and parks, her work also encompasses "comprovisation" and performance art. Originally from Minnesota, she resided in Japan over extended periods where she studied Japanese court music, Shinto festival music-drama and trends in the Japanese avant-garde. She lives in Canada as an independent composer, radio programmer and new music organizer, focusing on electroacoustic music and computer-assisted performance. 



"This remarkable work demands to be heard with one's senses and mind wide open; it would be a great loss to miss the subtleties of these engaging compositions....Peebles creates an ethereal, mystical atmosphere, evoking a world of drifting images....creating a work that is multilayered and challenging... At the core of the nine tracks on "Suspended in Amber" is a deep stillness, a fluid line holding the pieces together even as their sonic intensity and dissonance threaten to overpower the listener. This is not "new age" or   "ambient" music - it is, in fact, quite jarring at times - but it nevertheless evokes a sense of something eternal beneath cacophonous change. Maybe the greatest pleasure of listening to "Suspended in Amber" is in discovering the sense of balance pervading it. Never does it become dull, mushy or so soft that its meaning is lost. It does not assault the listener with grandiose ideas and self-indulgent technical prowess. Instead, it conveys a subtle sense of impermanence and of creative interplay of musicians whose level of sensitivity is uncommon in much contemporary expression."

- Patrick Lambelet


This reviewer had to take a break halfway through side 'A' before complete trance out . . . Tape should contain warnings concerning its powers . . . and warnings not to operate machines under its influence. Otherwise, this is a wonderful tape.

- LaDonna Smith


***** Rating, 1997 CD Releases

THE WIRE, 1998

"Slow moving and enchanting"


"Dramatic fourth-world pieces....the music here has a rare elegance, its evolution taking place in near-silence."


"Like a butterfly suspended in amber" best describes electro-acoustic composer Sarah Peebles' music style on "Suspended In Amber" a compilation of her works. This is mantra music for the sonic soul, recorded in Shukoji, a temple outside of Kawasaki's Asso borough. Natural sounds of insects, rustling bamboo and cool night breezes abound."