Since arriving in Japan I’ve been working on Oobire, a new composition for sho, hichiriki, wagon, shakuhachi, and percussion/electronics that will premier at the International House of Japan (Tokyo) on May 27th. 

Oobire blends traditional Japanese instruments with processed recordings of old Japanese 78s and field recordings; as well as bells, resonant bowls, and wooden temple blocks I’ve found in my travels. I am reaching back to ancient Japanese forms and sounds, while also attempting to sonically distill and express my present experience living in Kyoto.

Oobire draws from my interest in - and love for - traditional Japanese music such as Gagaku as well as the lesser known Shinto ritualistic music called Azuma Asobi.  The instrumentation is equally inspired by the aforementioned forms. The wind section (sho, hichiriki, and shakuhachi), is very similar to the Gagaku wind section, with the exception of the shakuhachi replacing the ryuteki. Interestingly, in the early years of Gagaku in Japan (8th and 9th centuries), a lower pitched flute was used, closely related to the shakuhachi.  This was a nice discovery in my research, for when I chose shakuhachi it was purely based on my love of the sound and my connection to Christopher Yohmei, a fantastic Tokyo-based shakuhachi player who will perform in the ensemble. The dry, stark sound of the wagon is the backbone of Azuma Asobi, and I chose it to function as such in Oobire. You can see my previous post on the wagon to learn more. (You can also reference my previous post on the sho). 

I’m fortunate to have the amazing shakuhachi player Christopher Yohmei as a member of the ensemble, and through Christopher I was able to put together an ensemble of top tier Tokyo musicians, including Nakamura Hitomi (hichiriki), Tajima Kazue (wagon), and Miura Remi (sho), who are members of Reigakusha, one of the premier Gagaku ensembles in Japan.   

We had our first rehearsal on May 8th, minus the percussion and electronics, which I will add at the next rehearsal.  Rehearsal score and rehearsal recording below.