Monday, February 19, 2007

I don't actually have this album. Well, I have the sleeve. I don't remember the particulars, but I probably bought this up in Poughkeepsie while at Vassar, shortly after having first encountered Balinese music. Got it home, opened it up and found and entirely different record inside: Japanese Koto Classics, performed by Yuize Shinichi. How serendipitous, if momentarily annoying. Who knows how long it would have taken me to get to koto music otherwise?

Of course, I know next to nothing about the koto tradition, including where Shinichi is generally considered to stand. Sounds pretty fantastic to me as well as far purer than those koto players who dabble in improv who I've heard over the years. Beautiful music; it seems pretty hard to go wrong with these early Nonesuch releases. Incidentally, despite what's in the sleeve, I've always perversely filed it under "B" for Bali. This makes little sense and, following its listening today, will return to "S" where it belongs. Or "Y". *sigh* Never know the right thing to do with Japanese surnames. I'd never looked up Shinichi-san before--here he is (I guess he plays shamisen as well):

Any koto recommendations would be welcome. Why I haven't rectified the original problem and picked up that Balinese disc yet, I don't know. I do get a little confused with the repackaging, as attractive as it is--I can never quite remember which ones I have, which ones I don't.

Oh man, the third track on Side One here, "Midare", is killer stuff. I see a recording of this piece (I think--called Midare Rinzetsu) on an album by Kazue Sawai; might have to look into that. She's worked with Michel Doneda, Le Quan Ninh and others, hmmm.....

3 comments:

Herb Levy said...

I don't know a lot about traditional koto music, but I have heard Kazue Sawai live and have a bunch of her recordings. Based on that, she seems to be really good, but I don't have a lot to compare it to.

Of the discs I have, the only one that's all traditional repertoire is probably the one you found a reference to: Midare: Kazue Sawai plays Koto Classics. This disc isn't all solo, her husband Tadao Sawai and Hideaki Kuribayashi also play on it, mostly various kotos, with one or two other string instruments and a vocal.

Besides the improvised recordings you mention, she's also got a lot of CDs of modern and contemporary music for koto, including a CD of music by her husband (Sanka, on Kyoto Records), one of music by Yuji Takahashi (The Wind Was Calling Me Outside, on Alm), as well as several collections (on MY Records and d'c Editions) of works written (mostly specifically for her) by composers like John Cage, Hideaki Kuribayashi, Haruna Miyake, Akira Nishimura, Minao Shibata, and Christian Wolff.

Phil James' label Sparkling Beatnik released many CDs of mostly new music for Japanese traditional instruments, including a few Japanese ensembles of koto players and the American kotoist Elizabeth Falconer.

If you have an interest in shakuhachi, I'd very much recommend you look for Watazumi Doso, Katsuya Yokoyama, & Hozan Yamamoto; each great musicians from different styles of playing. Yokoyama and Yamamoto have performed and recorded modern/contemporary music: Yokoyama with Toru Takemitsu and Richard Teitelbaum, Yamamoto with Masabumi Kikuchi and Gary Peacock.

lukaz said...

I am just listening to solo record called ''Three Pieces'' released on japanese label My record as a cd in 1992. It has ''Three Dances'' by Cage played by quartet on prepared 17-string kotos;- the piece is arranged by Sawai herself, a solo piece written specially for her ''Malvina'' by Wolff played by her and ''Concerto for Kot and orchestra'' by Takashi Kako w Sawai on koto and 17-string koto + New japan Philharmonic condicted by Michiyoshi Inoue ...

Brian Olewnick said...

Thanks Herb & Lukaz. I have a little bit of Shakuhachi as well, though again I'm pretty unknowledgeable about it as a genre. My favorite is the one on Nonesuch by Kohachiro Miyata.