tokyo in spring

Tokyo in Spring: Sonic Resonance

Recently I had the privilege of visiting Tokyo in March, amidst the beauty of coldly shy blossoms in Ueno Park, for an intercultural music gathering of Australian and Japanese composers. The formal occasion was the Japan Federation of Composers and Melbourne Composers League collaboratively organised concert entitled, “Asian Tradition/Asian Contemporary 2017—Mysterious instrument from Australia—Didgeridoo” in the prestigious Millennium Hall, Taito City on the 29th March 2017.

Figure 1: Isao Matsushita, Bruce Crossman, Namatjira Morgan, Johanna Selleck, Kaori Nabeshima, Rui Ogawa and Andrián Pertout after the concert in Millennium Hall, Tokyo (photo: Izumi Miyoshi); Johanna Selleck, Andrián Pertout, Bruce Crossman and Namatjira Morgan relaxing in Ueno Park (photo: Kaori Nabeshima)

With my long-term friends Andrián and Katia Pertout accompanying me, there was opportunity to share things such as the rich sonic and visual experience that opened up for us through rehearsals at one of the oldest universities in Japan—Tokyo University of the Arts—and at the concert in the sonorous wood paneled auditorium in Taito—Millennium Hall. Dancing sounds of interweaving flutes in Isao Matsushita’s Time of Birds (two flutes) duo flourish, naturally birdsong and fluent compositional virtuosity of life sounds, sat in balance with Namatjira Morgan’s rich didgeridoo tones in perfect undulating dialogue with seasoned Tokyo performer Jun-ichiro Taku’s flute virtuosity, in Rui Ogawa’s virtuosic duo moSaic aQua (flute and didgeridoo). Namatjira’s own solo composition, Didgeridoo Improvisation, spoke of emergent noise breaking to life in his didgeridoo extemporization, which was formed as a beautifully shaped triangular envelope of sound that was played with skill and sensitivity as an Australian blossom moment in the concert’s flow of time.

Figure 2: Millennium Hall: Jun-ichiro Taku (contrabass flute), Namatjira Morgan (yidaki [didgeridoo]) and Takano Reine (harp) (photo: Bruce Crossman)
Melbourne composers Andrián Pertout and Johanna Selleck continued the dialogue with the transcendent floating and interaction of sounds of the earlier work, Un’impressione nel tempo (contrabass flute, viola, harp and didgeridoo), and guttural urgency and rawness of rebellious sound in the latter, Hoon! Black Cockatoo (contrabass/alto flute, viola, harp and yidaki [didgeridoo])—both works capturing the timelessness and strength of the Australian landscape. Japanese composer Kaori Nabeshima’s beautifully transcendent floating piece From the Horizon (bass flute, viola and harp), wafted with Debussian-like sensitivity born of spring blossom awareness, especially amidst its sonorous sonorities but at times toughly constructed sinewy sound world.

Figure 3: Rehearsal Modes: Jun-ichiro Taku, Kaori Nabeshima, Bruce Crossman, Namatjira Morgan, Andrián Pertout and Rui Ogawa at rehearsal at Tokyo University of the Arts (photo: Katia Pertout); Takano Reine and Bruce Crossman discuss Emergence from Darkness (solo harp) (photo: Kaori Nabeshima)

My own solo harp work Emergence from Darkness, opened the concert with emergent noise tones evolving into virtuosic, momentary flourishes in a distilled meditative structure; its line and ebb and flow of passing moments were beautifully handled by Tokyo harpist Takano Reine—at once fragile sensitivity and vigorous kinetic virtuosity that suggested her Paris training and natural sense of time-flow of sound.

The Tokyo audience met these moments of undulating time-flow in Millennium Hall with joy, exhilaration and careful consideration of the sonic bloom moments. Intercultural unfolding of Japanese and Australian sounds dialogued together, across moments, and in a fragile envelope of time passing in the ancient seat of poetic expression, that is Basho’s moment territory of Ueno.