Bang on a Can All-Stars Return to Japan Society with RIMPA REIMAGINED Tonight
Tonight, December 8 at 7:30pm, the Bang on a Can All-Stars will return to the Japan Society (333 East 47th Street) to perform Rimpa Reimagined, a multimedia program unveiling world premieres by red-hot New York-based composer/jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and celebrated Japanese post-minimalist composer Mamoru Fujieda. In addition, the All-Stars will revive Somei Satoh’s Shu (Spells) for the first time since its world premiere at the Society in 2004. This time, the piece will be performed to a Rimpa-art-inspired visual landscape specially created for this concert by cutting-edge motionographer Nobuyuki Hanabusa.
The All-Stars’ concert is presented in conjunction with Japan Society’s exhibition Silver Wind: The Arts of Sakai H?itsu (1761-1828), showcasing one of the masters of the traditional Japanese painting movement, Rimpa. Fujieda’s and Iyer’s new pieces are both based on inspiration taken from Rimpa; Hanabusa’s work will also incorporate his own manipulation of traditional Rimpa paintings’ motifs. Concertgoers are encouraged to come early to see the exhibition, and gallery access is free of charge for ticket holders arriving prior to showtime.
Rimpa Reimagined closes out Bang on a Can’s landmark 25th year, a season marked by the organization’s celebrated quarter-century commitment to presenting innovative new collaborations with artists from across the globe. Historically, Bang on a Can has an impressive record of collaborations with leading Japanese composers, and has commissioned and premiered works by Yoko Ono (2010), Ryuichi Sakamoto (2009), Tatsuya Yoshida (2011) and Nobukazu Takemura (2004) in addition to the pieces to be performed on this concert by Somei Satoh and Mamoru Fujieda.
A leading figure of Japan's postminimalism movement, composer Mamoru Fujieda was born in 1955 and first studied at the Tokyo College of Music, then received his Ph.D. in music from University of California, San Diego. Working with artists including John Zorn, Yuji Takahashi, and Malcolm Goldstein, Fujieda composes music that emerges from his fascination with the collaborative formation of music. Whether working with the Butoh dancer Setsuko Yamada to produce sound sculptures that emerge from a mutual reaction between the dancer and objects that she touches, or reading the minute electrical currents flowing through an orchid to express nature's undulations, Fujieda's work represents an innovative approach that fuses technology to biology, composer to performer, and music to audience.
“Sakai H?itsu's cherry blossoms begin to sing,” says Fujieda of the inspiration for his new piece for the All-Stars, entitled Gamelan Cherry. “My work will be based on patterns derived from the subtly changing electric potentials in cherry blossoms.”
Of his new piece for the All-Stars, entitled Rimpa Ephemera, Vijay Iyer says, “I am attempting something I know to be impossible: a direct translation of a visual experience into a musical experience. From perceptual and geometric analyses of the grand, improvised arm and hand gestures of H?itsu's Waves, the gentler poetic near-realism of his Winter Beauty, and Suzuki Kiitsu's stylized, manic swarm of Morning Glories, I derive musical acts that directly represent the gestural brushstrokes, or the rhythms of the perceiving eye.”
The American-born son of Indian immigrants and a 2011 Grammy nominee, Iyer recently received top honors in five categories of the 2012 Down Beat International Critics Poll, including Jazz Artist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year (for Accelerando), Jazz Group of the Year (for the Vijay Iyer Trio), Pianist of the Year, and Rising Star Composer.
Somei Satoh is a composer of the post-war generation whose hauntingly evocative musical language is a fusion of Japanese timbral sensibilities with 19th century Romanticism and electronic technology. Satoh has been deeply influenced by Shintoism, the writings of the Zen Buddhist scholar DT Suzuki, his Japanese cultural heritage, and the multimedia art forms of the sixties. Satoh’s Shu, written for the All-Stars and commissioned by Japan Society in 2004, is an exploration of the two contradictory meanings of the word “shu,” which is derived from Buddhism and originally meant “incantation” or “spells.”
Satoh explains, “The first [meaning] is a curse; a wrath so deeply rooted in the feeling of hatred so as to damage someone’s health or destroy a person’s life. The other is a prayer for happiness; a wish to heal sickness and for the children to grow up healthy. This piece is comprised of four movements, and each movement reflects a different meaning of SHU. For instance, one movement symbolizes a mother’s intent prayer for the peaceful happiness of her child.”
“We are so excited to be working with the Japan Society,” says Bang on a Can co-founder David Lang. “Over the years Bang on a Can has had many great experiences with some of Japan's leading composers – commissioning their music, bringing them to New York, and playing their pieces at leading venues and festivals around the world. The strange thing is that we have performed all over Asia but we have never been to Japan. And we really want to come! We hope it will be soon.”
In addition to the projects listed above, Bang on a Can has also collaborated with or presented performances by Japanese artists including the Kazue Sawai Koto Ensemble, Toshio Hosokawa, Akiko Ushijima, choreographer Yoshiko Chuma, and the band Ne-Ne, among others.