Wednesday 30 January 2013

Cool fusion - sounds from Japan and the west

As part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra's Total Immersion event, Sounds from Japan, this Saturday 2 February at the Barbican Centre there is the opportunity to hear a variety of music written not just for symphony orchestra. Most of the music is written by Japanese composers for western instruments, though Takemitsu's November Steps, which receives its UK premiere at the evening concert, is written for shakuhachi, biwa and orchestra. But the combination of western and Japanese instruments is developed most fully in the concert at 5pm by Okeanos. Okeanos are an ensemble of musicians trained in the Western classical tradition who play a combination of western and Japanese instruments.

At their concert at 5pm in the Barbican Hall, they will be traditional Japanese music for sho, koto and shakuhachi, movements from Dai Fujikura's Okeanos cycle: Touch of Breeze, Breathing Tides, Cutting Sky and Okeanos Breeze and newly created improvised fusion music with musicians from the BBC SO, Okeanos, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and composer Dai Fujikura.

Japanese-born UK-based Fujikura's Okeanos cycle is central to the group's existence. His recent work includes a new piece for Matthew Barley's Around Britten tour (see my review on this blog)

The group formed in 2001 as a musical response to a textile exhibition which was part of the UK-wide festival Japan 2001. The display of textiles inspired a number of commissions from Japanese composers. Fujikura's Okeanos cycle originated from these events and remains the groups must frequently performed work.

Fujikura's Okeanos cycle consists of five movements, written between 2001 and 2010, each for a different combination of koto, sho, viola, oboe and clarinet. You can hear (and see the score) of Okeanos Breeze for koto, sho, viola, oboe and clarinet with ocean drum and antique cymbal played by Okeanos ensemble on YouTube and there are further sound clips on Fujikura's website. In fact Okeanos Breeze written in 2001 was the first time that Fujikura had written for Japanese instruments. Though born in Japan (in 1977), Fujikura spent his teenage years in the UK and only heard Japanese instruments live at a concert at the Darmstadt Summer School when he was 20.

Okeanos has an impressive track record in new music, having premiered over 100 new works, including commissions from Robin Holloway, Howard Skempton, Judith Weir, Nicola Lefanu and Judith Bingham, along with up and coming young composers such as Lynne Plowman, Dai Fujikura, Chikako Morishita and Basil Athenasiadis.

Further information from the Okeanos website, and booking for Total Immersion: Sounds From Japan at the Barbican website.

Elsewhere on this blog:

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