May 25, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jeffrey James Arts Consulting
516-586-3433 or jamesarts@worldnet.att.net
 

WEAVING JAPANESE SOUNDS
MUSIC OF MODERN JAPAN

Sachiko Kato, Founder and Artistic Director

The Composers

Akira Nishimura
Born 8 September, 1953, Osaka; studied composition and music theory on a graduate course at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music 1973-1980. While at the university, he also studied Asiatic traditional music, religion, esthetics, cosmology, and the heterophonic concept, etc., all of which has had a lasting influence on his music to the present day.

Nishimura has been awarded a Grand Prix for Composition at the Queen Elizabeth International Music Competition in Brussels, The Luigi Dallapiccola Composition Award (Milan), three Otaka Prizes, and four other national prizes in Japan. He has also served as the Composer in Residence of the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa; Musical Director: Hiroyuki Iwaki, 1993-94; and, the Composer in Residence of the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra; Musical Director: Kazuyoshi Akiyama, 1994-97.

In recent years, Nishimura has been commissioned from many overseas music festivals and performing bodies such as ULTIMA Contemporary Music Festival, Oslo, Octobre en Normandie, Rouen, Arditti String Quartet, Kronos String Quartet, ELISION ensemble, Hanover Society of Contemporary Music, etc., and his new works were performed at WIEN MODERN, Vienna, Warsaw Autumn, Warsaw, MUSICA, Strasbourg, Brisbane Festival of Music, Brisbane, etc.

Nishimura is at present a Professor at the Tokyo College of Music, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Japan Federation of Composers.

Yuzuru Sadashige received his MM in composition from the Manhattan School of Music and a BM in composition from Berklee College of Music. His composition teachers include Elias Tanenbaum and James Russell Smith. He has received the Brian M. Israel Award from the Society for New Music, and honorable mentions from Vienna Modern Masters and Percussive Arts Society. His score for an independent film ANA: Portrait in Days (directed by Liselle Mei) won the New York University 54th Annual First Run Festival's award for best original film score. He has written several theater scores for The Actors Company Theatre. His works have been featured by ensembles and concert series such as NewEar, Synchronia, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Stormking Music Festival, The New York Clarinet Quartet, the ONIX New Music Ensemble of Mexico City, Nota Bene Ensemble of Queens College, Timetable, Music Under Construction. Mr. Sadashige was a composer-in-residence for the American Chamber Music Festival at Edsvik, Sweden in summer 1999. He was invited to participate in the Stormking Music Festival. His "Third Tribe" for flute, djembe drum and piano was recorded by Alejandro Escuer on Quindecim Recordings. He is an electric bassist /guitarist/songwriter of art/alternative rock band Changing Modes (http://www.changingmodes.com) which has released two albums ("A Perfect Day"-2003, and "Aeroplane"-2005).

If you're into music, you've probably encountered Jed Distler. He's all around you. You may remember Jed's scores to such airline boarding videos as Spring Flowers in Appalachia, music for holiday bargain CDs like Baby's First Christmas, or mini-operas like The Three Minute Saga of Rudolfo premiered last year at Lincoln Center. Perhaps you've played his published Bill Evans and Art Tatum transcriptions, or read his record reviews in Gramophone or on Classicstoday.com. Maybe you've heard Jed's recent works like Three Landscapes for Peter Wyer (for toy piano, recorded by Margaret Leng Tan on Point Records), String Quartet No. 1 (Mister Softee Variations, premiered in 1999 by the Flux Quartet), or the Violin Sonata. On recitals and on disc, he has premiered works by Frederic Rzewski, Lois V Vierk, Wendy Mae Chambers, Andrew Thomas, Virgil Thomson, David Maslanka, Douglas Geers, William Schimmel, Kitty Brazelton, Alvin Curran, Eleanor Hovda, Bob Windbiel, and others.

You might remember such press clips about Jed as "an altogether extraordinary pianist (Newark Star-Ledger), or "a musician with smoke coming out of his ears (alternative radio station WFMU)." As Composers Collaborative's co-founder and Artistic Director, Jed has created and programmed such innovative festivals as Solo Flights and Non Sequitur. He's received grants from ASCAP, Meet the Composer, American Composers Forum, and a Macdowell Colony residency in the fall of 2001. Fifteen years after CCi began, Jed continues to beat new music's vibrant, ever changing, boundary blurring drum.

Karen Tanaka (b. Tokyo, 1961) is acclaimed as one of the leading living composers from Japan. She has been invited as a composer in residence at many important festivals, and her music has been widely performed throughout the world by the major orchestras, ensembles, international festivals and on radio. She has composed extensively for both instrumental and electronics media. "Her music is delicate and emotive, beautifully crafted, showing a refined ear for both detail and large organic shapes...", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Karen Tanaka's musical education began with piano lessons when she was four years old and formal composition lessons from the age of ten. After studying French literature at Aoyama Gakuin University, she studied composition with Akira Miyoshi at Toho Gakuen School of Music. During four years of study there, she won several major awards in Japan and Europe for her composition, including prizes at the Viotti and Trieste competitions and the Japan Symphony Foundation Award.

In 1986 with the aid of a French Government Scholarship she moved to Paris to study composition with Tristan Murail and work at IRCAM as an intern. In 1987 she was awarded the Gaudeamus Prize at the International Music Week in Amsterdam for her piano concerto Anamorphose. She studied with Luciano Berio in Florence in 1990-91 with funds from the Nadia Boulanger Foundation and a Japanese Government Scholarship, at the end of which time she wrote Hommage en cristal, a commission from the Ultima Festival in Oslo for the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra.

A series of important commissions from Japan, including the orchestral piece Initium (1993), Wave Mechanics (1994) and Echo Canyon (1995), confirmed her as one of the leading living composers from that country. During the same period, there were increasing performances and broadcasts around the world including the UK, USA, France, Scandinavia and five ISCM festivals. She is co-artistic director of the Yatsugatake Kogen Music Festival, previously directed by Toru Takemitsu.

Her recent works, such as The Song of Songs, Night Bird and Metal Strings, develop new directions in her musical language using the latest technology and reflecting different aspects of contemporary culture. In recent years, Karen Tanaka's love of nature and concern for the environment has influenced many of her works, including Frozen Horizon, Water and Stone and the tape piece Questions of Nature.

Since 2000 she has had significant premieres: an ensemble piece Water and Stone, commissioned by Radio France in Paris; a second string quartet At the Grave of Beethoven, commissioned by the Arts Council of England for the Brodsky Quartet (released on CD by Vanguard label); two solo piano works: Techno Etudes, written for Tomoko Mukaiyama (released on CD by BVHAAST label), and Crystalline III, commissioned by the Canada Council; and five orchestral works; Guardian Angel for the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Departure for the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Lost Sanctuary for the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Rose Absolute commissioned by the Michael Vyner Trust for the NHK Symphony Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Urban Prayer for Joan Jeanrenaud (cello) and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kent Nagano. The performance of Guardian Angel by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in July 2002 brought her music to the attention of the large audience in Los Angeles.

Karen Tanaka currently lives in Santa Barbara, California.

Lois V Vierk (b. August 1951, Lansing, Illinois). American composer of a wide variety of works for ensembles small and large, usual and unusual; her works, mostly stage and chamber, have been performed all over Europe and the USA to much acclaim. Ms. Vierk received her BA (major in piano and ethnomusicology) from UCLA in 1974. She then studied composition at the California Institute of the Arts with Mel Powell, Leonard Stein and Morton Subotnick, receiving her MFA in 1978. For ten years, she studied gagaku (Japanese court music) with Suenobu Togi in Los Angeles, and for two years, in Tokyo with Sukeyasu Shiba, the lead ryuteki flautist of the Imperial Court Orchestra.

Ms. Vierk has spent most of her career in New York City. Her music has achieved an impressive international reputation, and has been performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Kronos Quartet, electric guitarists Seth Josel and David Seidel, cellist Ted Mook, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, the Reigakusha Ensemble of Tokyo, and the Relâche Ensemble, among others.

Among the many performers who have commissioned Ms. Vierk are cellist Maya Beiser, accordionist Guy Klucevsek, pianists Ursula Oppens, Frederic Rzewski, Aki Takahashi, and Margaret Leng Tan, and percussionist Steven Schick. The Bang on a Can Festival, Ensemble Modern, l'Art pour l'Art, Music from Japan, and the Paul Dresher Ensemble have also commissioned works from her. Co-creations with tap dance choreographer Anita Feldman have been commissioned by the American Dance Festival, the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Meet the Composer, and others. Ms. Vierk's music has been performed at major venues worldwide, including the Adelaide Festival, Carnegie Hall, Darmstadt, the Edmonton New Music Festival, Glasgow, the Huddersfield Festival, Lincoln Center, Radio Bremen, the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, and the Suntory Festival (Tokyo). Her music is available on CDs from CRI, OOdiscs, Sony Classical, Starkland Records, XI Compact Discs, and most recently, Tzadik.

Her latest work, Deep-water Waves, was written for the Paul Dresher Ensemble, and was premiered on October 4, 2001 in San Francisco. Her next work will be for cellist Maya Beiser - a duo for cello and piano.

She is self-published.

Toru Takemitsu (October 8, 1930-February 20, 1996) was a Japanese composer of music, who explored the compositional principles of Western classical music and his native Japanese tradition both in isolation and in combination.

Born in Tokyo, Takemitsu first became interested in western classical music around the time of World War II. He heard western music on American military radio while recuperating from a long illness. He also listened to jazz from his father's ample collection.

Takemitsu was largely self-taught in music. He was greatly influenced by French music, and in particular that of Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen. In 1951 he founded the Jikken Kobo, a group which introduced many contemporary western composers to Japanese audiences.

Takemitsu at first had little interest in traditional Japanese music, but later incorporated Japanese instruments such as the shakuhachi (a kind of bamboo flute) into the orchestra. November Steps (1967), a work for shakuhachi and biwa (a kind of Japanese lute) solo and orchestra was the first piece to combine instruments from east and west. In an Autumn Garden (1973-79) is written for the kind of orchestra that would have played gagaku (traditional Japanese court music). Works such as Eclipse, (1966) for shakuhachi and biwa, Voyage (1973), for three biwas should also been mentioned as works that are decidedly derived from traditional genres.

Takemitsu first came to wide attention when his Requiem for string orchestra (1957) was accidentally heard and praised by Igor Stravinsky in 1959 (some Japanese people wanted Igor Stravinsky to hear some tape recorded music by Japanese composers and put in the wrong side of the tape - when they tried to take it out, Stravinsky didn't let them). Stravinsky went on to champion Takemitsu's work.

Takemitsu's works include the orchestral piece A Flock Descends Into the Pentagonal Garden (1977), Riverrun for piano and orchestra (1984, the title is the first word in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake), and the string quartet A way a Lone (1981, another piece inspired by Finnegans Wake). He reworked his 1981 piece Toward the Sea (for flute and guitar) twice, once for flute, harp and string orchestra and later again for flute and harp. Chamber music such as Distance de Fee (1951) for violin and piano, or Between tides, for violin, cello and piano, are to be also mentioned. And such jewels of the piano music as Rain tree sketch (1982), Rain Tree Sketch II (1992), Les Yeux Clos (1979) and Les Yeux Clos II (1988) are considered to be amongst the finest works for the instrument written in the twentieth century. He also composed electronic music and almost a hundred film scores for Japanese films including those for Hiroshi Teshigahara's Woman in the Dunes (1964), Akira Kurosawa's Ran (1985) and Shohei Imamura's Black Rain (1989). His first score was for Toshio Matsumoto's Ginrin. His music for cinema rests deeply upon the concept that a new film needs a new sound colour, and is as much about taking out sounds as about taking them in. Some of the formal concepts in Takemitsu's music depend deeply on visual imagery, taken from paintings, dreams, or his concept (about which he writes much) of the garden.

Takemitsu died in Tokyo on February 20, 1996.

He was posthumously awarded the fourth Glenn Gould Prize in Autumn, 1996.



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Jeffrey James,   President
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