Press Room

Music From Japan: Festival 2012 opens on Feb 18

As we near the first anniversary of the trio of catastrophes suffered in Japan – the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster of 2011 – Music From Japan dedicates Festival 2012 to helping raise funds for and awareness of Iitate, one village that has been especially impacted by the nuclear calamity, and to which MFJ Artistic Director Naoyuki Miura has close personal ties. The weekend of events in New York City’s Merkin Concert Hall (Feb 18 & 19) will feature world premieres of three new MFJ commissions for Iitate, one of which is scored for children’s choir and dedicated to the children of the village. A percentage of proceeds from the festival-opening concert in New York will be sent directly to Iitate’s children’s fund, and the village’s Mayor, Norio Kanno, will deliver an illuminating lecture in both New York and DC, as well as participating in a discussion forum after the second New York concert.
Now in its 37th season, Festival 2012 opens with a concert showcasing the kugo, or angular harp, and one of its leading exponents, Fuyuhiko Sasaki, in a program entitled “Resonances of the Kugo” (Feb 18). With its debut in New York and a repeat performance – as a prelude to the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s centennial celebrations – in Washington (Feb 22), this program includes world premieres of three new Music From Japan commissions, including two of those written for Iitate. In New York, a second program – “Commissioned Chamber Premieres” (Feb 19) – presents world premieres of five further new MFJ commissions, scored primarily for Western chamber ensemble.
About Iitate Village, Fukushima
Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan described last year’s earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima as “the toughest and most difficult crisis for Japan since the end of World War II.” As the nation struggles to recover from this triple tragedy, Music From Japan shows its support by focusing attention on one village at the heart of the catastrophe that has demonstrated, nonetheless, rare resilience. Iitate, located 24 miles from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant No. 1, was found to have potentially dangerous radiation levels, and all but approximately 120 residents, most of them elderly, were forced to evacuate. Once a thriving and idyllic farming community, now Iitate is practically deserted, its formerly valuable cattle stock and rice fields rendered worthless by the threat of contamination. Families, once close-knit, have been displaced and compelled to disperse in search of work, abandoning the homes, livelihoods, and way of life they had enjoyed for generations.
No one knows the profound loss this represents better than Music From Japan’s own Artistic Director Naoyuki Miura, whose mother hails from Iitate and who spent all his childhood summers there. Indeed, two of Miura’s cousins were living in the village until the April evacuation order, and one is Iitate’s own mayor, Norio Kanno. Mayor Kanno has since taken on a leadership role in trying to ensure the village’s survival, playing an instrumental part in advocating for its inhabitants and soliciting substantial government funding for their relief effort. He credits the spirit of “madei” – originally meaning “whole-heartedness; acting with respect and care,” and more recently interpreted in Iitate’s own dialect as also denoting “eco-consciousness; acting in harmony with nature” – with the positive energy he and other villagers have been able to summon. Mayor Kanno argues that it is only by adopting Iitate’s unique philosophy of madei that Japan can hope to work towards recovery, and that, seen in this light, the tragedy actually represents something of an opportunity to help the nation return to this vital credo.
To honor the village and to raise awareness of its plight, this year’s festival presents three new commissions written especially for Iitate, two of which will premiere in the first program, while the third, scored for children’s choir with piano and dedicated to the children of Iitate, will premiere in the second. Furthermore, Mayor Kanno himself will be in attendance in New York, where he will present an exclusive pre-concert lecture entitled “Japan’s Recovery Lies in Iitate’s Spirit of ‘Madei’” before the opening concert as well as participating in a post-concert discussion forum the following day. A select number of tickets for the opening concert – “Resonances of the Kugo” (Feb 18) – will be sold to raise money for Iitate’s children’s fund, to help in the slow process of recovery.
About Festival 2012
“Resonances of the Kugo” opens Music From Japan’s 37th season at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City on Saturday, February 18, with a program of music featuring the kugo, or angular harp. Originating in Mesopotamia around 1900 BC, the kugo first flourished in Japan between the eighth and tenth centuries; today’s instruments are authentic replicas of the eighth-century examples preserved in Japan’s Shosoin Repository. Renowned kugo player Fuyuhiko Sasaki, winner of the Second International Fukui Harp Music Awards Competition for Composition, last graced Music From Japan during its 30th-anniversary season. He returns now, not only as a performer but also as composer of a new work for kugo, voice, and haisho (panpipes); his new piece, To Be Human, is the setting of a poem by Jotaro Wakamatsu, and one of the new Music From Japan commissions written expressly for Iitate. The second, composed by Takehito Shimazu, whose many international honors include First Prize at the International Wieniawski Composition Competition, is the setting of four haiku by “madei ambassador” Madoka Mayuzumi for voice, hichiriki (double-reeded oboe-like instrument), and percussion. A third new MFJ commission, a duet for kugo and sho (mouth organ) by Akiko Yamane, will also debut at this festival-opening concert in New York. Rounding out the program are works by such prominent recent and contemporary composers as Toshi Ichiyanagi, Maki Ishii, and Sukeyasu Shiba, plus music reconstructed by the latter from the ancient biwa manuscripts of Dunhuang.
Artists joining Sasaki on the program are Mayumi Miyata (sho), Hitomi Nakamura (voice and hichiriki), Wonjung Kim (voice), Takeshi Sasamoto (haisho and Shosoin shakuhachi, a vertical bamboo flute), and Kyoko Kato (hokyo and percussion). The instrumentalists are distinguished exponents of Japanese contemporary music for traditional instruments.
A repeat performance of the concert will be presented at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington’s Smithsonian Institution on Wednesday, February 22, as a prelude to the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s centennial celebrations, which commemorate the 100th anniversary of Tokyo’s 1912 gift to the American capital of 3,000 cherry trees. On the evening before the concert, Mayor Kanno will give his lecture “Japan’s Recovery Lies in Iitate’s Spirit of ‘Madei’” at the Japan Information and Cultural Center.
The second concert in Music From Japan’s 37th-season presentation, again at New York’s Merkin Concert Hall, is on Sunday, February 19. “Commissioned Chamber Premieres” features the Music From Japan Chamber Ensemble with children’s choir and soloists in world premieres of five new Music From Japan commissions. Set to a poem by Toma Ibu, Akiko Yamane’s new work, Time, Come Around: Madei Rondo, was written especially for the children of Iitate and will be performed by children from the New York Ikuei Academy Chorus, with piano accompaniment. Programmed alongside it are new works from four of Japan’s foremost young composers: Chikage Imai, Toshiya Watanabe, Noriko Koide, and Jummei Suzuki. To perform Koide’s new work, musicians from the ensemble will be joined by soprano Wonjung Kim, while for Suzuki’s they will collaborate with Mayumi Miyata on sho and Hitomi Nakamura on hichiriki. Mayor Kanno will join the commissioned composers for an open discussion forum after the concert.
On Tuesday, February 21, 2012, Music From Japan will present a special gagaku program for public school students in Washington, DC. The children will be introduced to gagaku music – Japanese court music, which dates back more than 1,200 years – with a brief history and a performance (excerpts) of Ponta and the Thunder God, set to music by Sukeyasu Shiba. The students will even have the chance to sing a “shoga”, an oral notation system that is sung to aid in the memorization of melodies. They will be shown and told about the instruments played in gagaku, and some lucky students will have the opportunity to experiment on them.
Music From Japan: Festival 2012
Sat, Feb 18, 2012; New York City
Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Center
7pm: Pre-concert lecture
“Japan’s recovery lies in Iitate’s spirit of “Madei”
Speaker: Norio Kanno, Mayor of Iitate Village, Fukushima
Interpreter: Sharon Nakazato
8pm: Concert – Resonances of the Kugo
Fuyuhiko Sasaki, kugo (angular harp)
Mayumi Miyata: sho (mouth organ)
Hitomi Nakamura: hichiriki (double-reed instrument) and voice
Takeshi Sasamoto: haisho (panpipes) and Shosoin shakuhachi (vertical bamboo flute)
Kyoko Kato: hokyo and percussion
Wonjung Kim: soprano
Sukeyasu Shiba: reconstruction from Dunhuang fragments: Kyu Kosomon and Kyukyokushi for kugo, sho, Shosoin shakuhachi, hichiriki, and hokyo (1983)
Sukeyasu Shiba: Winds from Ikaruga for kugo and sho (1991)
Fuyuhiko Sasaki: To Be Human (set to poem by Jotaro Wakamatsu) for kugo, voice, and haisho (2012) *
Toshi Ichiyanagi: Still Time II for kugo solo (1986)
Akiko Yamane: Dots Collection No.13 for kugo and sho (2012) **
Takehito Shimazu: Four Haiku: Four Seasons in Iitate (set to haiku by “madei ambassador” Madoka Mayuzumi) for voice, hichiriki, and percussion (2012) *
Maki Ishii: Chronology 1200 for reigaku (haisho, kugo, and hokyo) (1994)
* world premiere of new Music From Japan commission for Iitate
** world premiere of new Music From Japan commission
Sun, Feb 19, 2012; New York City
Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Center
2pm: Concert followed by post-concert discussion – Commissioned Chamber Premieres
Music From Japan Chamber Ensemble
with children from the New York Ikuei Academy Chorus; Mayumi Miyata, sho; Hitomi Nakamura, hichiriki; and Wonjung Kim, soprano
Chikage Imai: towards G for flute, clarinet, horn, viola, and cello (2012) **
Akiko Yamane: Dots Collection No.13 for kugo and sho (2012) **
Toshiya Watanabe: Twill of Sound III for piano, violin, and cello (2011) **
Noriko Koide: Embroidery for soprano, clarinet, violin, and cello (2012) **
Jummei Suzuki: Time and Lily: from East to West for sho, hichiriki, flute, and cello (2012) **
Akiko Yamane: Time, Come Around: Madei Rondo
 (set to poem by Toma Ibu) for children’s choir and piano (2011) *
Takehito Shimazu: Four Haiku: Four Seasons in Iitate (set to haiku by “madei ambassador” Madoka Mayuzumi) for voice, hichiriki, and percussion (2012) *
  * world premiere of new Music From Japan commission for Iitate
** world premiere of new Music From Japan commission
Tues, Feb 21, 2012; Washington, DC
Strong John Thomson Elementary School
Gagaku program for young students
Introduction to Gagaku (Japanese court music)
Shoga, students participate in singing the gagaku melody
Excerpts from Ponta and the Thunder God
Workshop offering some students the chance to experiment on gagaku instruments
The Japan Information and Culture Center, Embassy of Japan
6.30pm: Lecture
“Japan’s recovery lies in Iitate’s spirit of “Madei”
Speaker: Norio Kanno, Mayor of Iitate Village, Fukushima
1150 18th Street NW, Suite 100
(202) 238-6900 Admission free, registration required.
[email protected]
Wed, Feb 22, 2012; Washington, DC
Freer Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
7:30pm: Concert – Music From Japan: Echoes of the Silk Road
(same program as Feb 18 – see above)
All programs and artists are subject to change.
About the Mayor of Iitate Village
Norio Kanno was born in 1946 in Iitate Village.  He graduated with a major in Grassland Science from Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine in 1970. While maintaining a farm with 60 head of dairy cattle, Kanno was commissioned by Iitate Village to serve as its Community Center Director in 1989.  Elected Mayor of Iitate in October 1996, he has served four consecutive terms as mayor since then. In his capacity as mayor, Kanno has consistently opposed Iitate’s assimilation with other villages, instead instituting a unique policy that maximizes the advantages of a small-scale independent polity.  “Let us build a village that is autonomous and self-sustaining,” he proposed. Thus, Iitate Village has seen the successful implementation of support for families with children, initiatives to conserve the environment, and increased housing development, all of which have earned the village substantial attention and admiration throughout Japan. From the local dialect, Iitate has adopted the word “madei” as a motto for its lifestyle.  “Madei” connotes a combination of qualities that include “with care,” “conscientiously,” “putting one’s heart into it,” and “treasuring and protecting.”
Recent publications: 





When Radiation Rained on a Beautiful Village: The Mayor of Iitate:  120 Days of Decision and Resolve by Norio Kanno; August 25, 2011, Wanibooks
Power of Madei by Madei Special Committee; first published April 11, 2011; fourth edition June 11, 2011: Saga design Seeds
About the commissioned composers:
Chikage Imai was born in Nagoya, Japan and studied with Akihiko Matsui at Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music. In 2002, Imai met and was inspired by Joji Yuasa – a notable Japanese composer – at Composium 2002, and he became familiar with her music at the Akiyoshidai summer seminar that same year, since which he has been her mentor. Moving to Europe in 2003, Imai continued to study composition with Wim Henderickx and Fabio Nieder at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, where she received her bachelor and master’s diplomas, supported by the Rohm Music Foundation. Imai’s chamber ensemble piece Vectorial Projection I – bouncing ball (2006) helped gain her international renown; premiered by the Nieuw Ensemble under Lucas Vis and performed again in Gaudeamus muzikweek, the work was also awarded an honorable mention by the 28th Irino Prize for Chamber Music. In 2008 Vectorial Projection IV – fireworks (2008) was commissioned by Festival d’Automne à Paris and premiered by Irvine Arditti and the Nieuw Ensemble. Imai’s Simulgenesis for 17 musicians (2009) was written for the 4th International Composition Seminar of the International Ensemble Modern Academy, and this piece led the Westdeutschen Rundfunks to commission Imai to write a piece for Ensemble Modern. The work was premiered at Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik 2011. Her music is published by Muzikproduktion Dabringhaus und Grimm and Ensemble Modern Media. Imai is involved in projects collaborating with other artists and art forms, including visual art and stage design, among others. She is currently an Honorary Research Associate at Royal Holloway University of London.
Born in Chiba, Japan in 1982, Noriko Koide received her master’s degree in music cum laude from Tokyo College of Music in 2008, and from the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music in 2011. She studied composition with Shin’ichiro Ikebe, Sunao Isaji, Masao Endo, Toshio Hosokawa, Yutaka Fujiwara, and Wim Henderickx, among others. Now at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague, with a scholarship from the Rohm Music Foundation, she studies sonology. Koide’s works have garnered numerous awards, including the Tokyo College of Music’s President’s Award, the 17th Akutagawa Prize for Best Orchestral Work in Japan, the Idemitsu Award for New Artistic Talent, second place in the 67th All Japan Music Competition (composition division), and the Iwatani Prize. Recently Koide was invited to participate in the Asko│Schönberg 9 x 7 Project and the Nieuw Ensemble Young Composers Project. Her work has been performed in Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam. In 2007 Koide studied in Finland with Yukka Tiensuu as part of the Musikin aika (Time of Music) workshop. Koide’s performing group Sukebe Ningen (whose English name is The Goodwill Ambassador of Japanese Eroticism) received a grant from the Nomura Foundation in 2010; Sukebe Ningen has gained some fame as a pop-up improvisatory group that crosses the divide between classical and pop.
Fuyuhiko Sasaki (also featured artist: kugo; see below)
Takehito Shimazu was born in 1949 in Shimoda City, Japan. He studied composition at Tokyo Gakugei University with Sesshu Kai and Satoshi Sumitani, and at Hochschule der Kuenste Berlin with Isang Yun and others. Shimazu graduated as valedictorian of his class from the Berlin Fine Arts University. He produced electronic and computer music at the electronic studio of the Technical University of Berlin. He has participated in many festivals in Europe, Asia and the Americas, including the World Music Days of ISCM in Graz, Hong Kong, and Mexico City, the commission of a new work by ISCM in Oslo, and ICMC festivals in Cologne, Tokyo and Hong Kong. He has participated in seminars at both IRCAM and Les Ateliers UPIC in Paris. Works range from solo to orchestral music for traditional Japanese as well as western instruments and include choral, experimental, electronic, multi-media and computer music, extending to installations and works for Japanese dance and television programs. In 2004 he was invited to present a multi-media work, Taiyo Fuu (Solar Wind), at the New York Fusion Arts Festival. The following year he presented a work for Japanese dance and ensemble at the Dresden Music Festival (“Fuzzy Diagonals”), and in 2006 he introduced Two Scenes for String Orchestra at the Breslau Music Festival in Poland. Shimazu has organized many concerts and festivals with electronic and non-electronic music; examples include the concert series “Machinery Improvisation” – as well as “Fuzzy Diagonals” and “Sound Electro Media” – in Tokyo, and a musical self-portrait “Realm of Compositions, Takehito Shimazu” in Hong Kong. Shimazu’s many honors and prizes include the Juergen-Ponto Composition Competition in Germany (‘79), the International Wieniawski Composition Competition in Poland (‘80), the Hambach Prize in Germany (‘85), the Special Prize of Japanese Ministry of Culture for Theater Arts (‘88), and the International Experimental Music Competition in Bourge, France (‘96). Shimazu was the music committee chairman of ICMC in Tokyo in 1993 and composition juror for ICMC at the Hong Kong competition in1996. He is an active conductor of new compositions, including his own, both at home and abroad. In 2000 he was a guest lecturer at the University of Georgia in the US, and he currently serves as a professor at Fukushima University in Japan.
Jummei Suzuki, born in 1970 in Tokyo, Japan, obtained both his bachelors (1995) and master’s degrees (2000) from the Tokyo University of the Arts, under the guidance of Teruyuki Noda, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Ryôhei Hirose and Ichirô Nodaira. He moved to Paris in 1997 to continue his studies – in composition with Gérard Grisey and Marco Stroppa, in orchestration with Marc-André Dalbavie, and in analysis with Michaiël Levinas – at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris, with the assistance of the Japanese Government Overseas Program (1999-2001). There Suzuki obtained a premier prix in the graduate class of composition. He participated in the Royaumont Composition Course in 2000 with a fellowship supported by the Foundation Akiyoshidai International Art Village. He attended the one-year course in Composition and Computer Music of IRCAM (2002-2003) with Philippe Leroux. He has been awarded prizes and distinctions from the 64th Japan Music Competition, the 18th Japan Symphony Foundation Award, the International Gaudeamus Music Week ’99, the 31st Bourges International Sound Arts and Electro Music Competition, and the 3rd Forum de la Jeune Création Musicale. Since 2005, Suzuki has been teaching music composition and analysis at Toho Gakuen School of Music, Toho Gakuen Graduate School of Music, Senzoku Gakuen College of music, Tokyo College of Music, and Tokyo University of the Arts. His works have been performed and broadcast by leading musicians and orchestras in Japan and around the world.
Toshiya Watanabe received both undergraduate and master’s degrees from Tokyo University of the Arts with a major in composition. While in graduate school he was a recipient of the Ataka Prize for excellence from the university, and in 1999 he won the third prize in the Toru Takemitsu Competition, with Luciano Berio as juror. Other awards include the 22nd Japan Symphony Foundation Music Prize, Honorable Mention for the 24th Irino Prize (for Chamber Music), the Takefu Composition Award in 2002, and a nomination for the 14th Akutagawa Composition Prize. Watanabe was also awarded the 9th Keizo Saji Prize (Suntory Foundation) for Chronoi Protoi’s fifth performance, subtitled “for the possibility of a string quartet” (produced by the composer). He was invited as a participating composer to the First Takefu International Composition Workshop (2001). The following year he was invited by Takefu to take part as an exchange student in the Royaumont Composition Seminar in France (on which the Takefu International Composition Workshop is modeled). Watanabe’s works have been performed in Japan and internationally, by such groups as Ensemble Bois and Vox Humana. Watanabe is an active member of Chronoi Protoi and PATH.  He currently lectures at Kunitachi College of Music.
Born in Osaka in 1982, Akiko Yamane studied composition at the Kyoto City University of Arts with Hinoharu Matsumoto from 2001-2007, and at Hochschule für Kuenste Bremen with Younghi Pagh-Paan from 2005-2006 as an exchange student. Yamane also studied composition with Motoharu Kawashima privately. She participated in a Composition Master Course in Akiyoshidai’s Summer (2003), at the Composers Forum in Tokyo (2004), in the Takefu international music festival (2005, 2007 as an invited composer), and at Royaumont Voix Nouvelles in France (2006). She has also taken individual lessons with Joji Yuasa, Toshio Hosokawa, Misato Mochizuki, Brian Ferneyhough, Michael Jarrell and Francois Paris. Yamane’s many awards and grants include the Meiji Yasuda quality of life scholarship (2004), the Kyoto Musical Association prize (2005), the Faculty Award from the Kyoto City University of Arts (2005), a finalist of the Takefu Composition Award (2005), the Togashi Prize of the 22nd JSCM Award for Composers (2005), 1st Prize of the Music Competition of Japan (2006), and the Akutagawa Prize (2010). Her pieces have been commissioned and performed by the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, Izumi Sinfonietta Osaka, and many contemporary music instrumental players. Yamane, in her own words, bases her music “on the concept of visualizing sound. Although sound is not visible to the eye, I consider it to be something like a spatial art installation, enveloping our surroundings. I strive to paint, with notes, sound that has a contour that can be followed; tactile sound that can be directly felt and experienced according to each listener’s own internal sense of shape, color, and texture.”
About the poets
Toma Ibu was born in 1962 and resides in Fukushima City. He had his first book of solo poetry published by Shichosha in 2001 with the title a = a. His work was included in the anthology Gendaishi Saizensen (“Frontline of Contemporary Poetry”), published by Hokumeisha. Ibu belongs to the Japan Federation of Poets, a group that has included such stellar poets as Kenji Miyazawa, Chuya Nakahara, and Shinpei Kusano. Ibu’s favorite pastime is hiking in the mountains accompanied by his chocolate Labrador retriever, Sirius.
Jotaro Wakamatsu was born in 1935 in Iwate Prefecture. After graduating from Fukushima University, he taught at high schools in Fukushima.  His collection of poems The Midnight Forest (1961) won the Literary Award of Fukushima Prefecture. In 1988 he received the Masao Fukuda Prize for Toward the Sea, From the Sea (Kashinsha Publishing), and in 2001 he was given the Literary Cultural Award of Fukushima Minpo newspaper for Many Rivers Are There (Kashinsha Publishing). Other collections of poems by Wakamatsu are The Fog Crosses the Border (2004, Genshobo Publishing) and The Wind and the Canary at Lat.3725’N. (2010, Genshobo Publishing). Wakamatsu has written extensively on the theme of nuclear power and its potential dangers; upon witnessing the devastation in the aftermath of Chernobyl, he wrote about how Fukushima could possibly suffer a similar fate. Wakamatsu is a member of the Japan P.E.N Club and the Japan Contemporary Poets Association. He lives in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture.
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture, Madoka Mayuzumi first received acclaim when her poems won an award from the publisher Kadokawa Shoten in 1994. Her haiku are notable for their romantic and urban flavor, and for bringing new elements into the tradition. Her first book, B-men no Natsu (“B-side Summer”), enjoyed unprecedented sales for a haiku collection; the book attracted a devoted following that led to the formation of the “Hepburn” Club (the only all-female coterie in Japan), which launched the monthly haiku magazine Gekkan Hepburn in 1996 and disbanded in March 2006 after publishing 100 issues. In 1999, Mayuzumi trekked the Way of St. James, an 800-kilometer pilgrimage from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (France) to Santiago de Compostela (Spain). Her haiku and essays of the journey were later serialized in the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan’s national newspapers, and published in the book Hoshi no Tabibito (“The Pilgrimage to Compostela”). Between 2001 and 2002, Mayuzumi visited South Korea five times to hike the nearly 500 kilometers from Busan to Seoul. Her haiku and essays of this journey were also serialized in the Yomiuri Shimbun and published as a book. In 2002, Mayuzumi’s fifth haiku collection, Kyoto no Koi (“Kyoto Romance”), won the Kenkichi Yamamoto Literary Prize. In December 2006, reacting to the many reports of depression and suicide in Japan, Mayuzumi began delivering haiku e-mail newsletters to cell phone users to raise national spirits. Recently Mayuzumi spent a year in France as a Japan Cultural Envoy on a program sponsored by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan. Mayuzumi now leads the Rediscovery and Redefining Japan project, which aims to revitalize the country by rediscovering local culture, traditions, and history. She is also a board member of the Fellowship for Camino de Santiago Japan, and a future heritage board member of the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan.
About the artists
Fuyuhiko Sasaki (featured artist: kugo, and commissioned composer) is an active harpist and composer in Japan and winner of the Second International Fukui Harp Music Awards Competition for Composition in 1995. He studied harp with Ayako Shinozaki and composition with Toshiro Mayuzumi and Teizo Matsumura at the Tokyo University of the Arts. Sasaki is also a renowned player of the kugo, a large ancient harp of Asian origin, and he has appeared in numerous concerts and music festivals as well as on recordings both in Japan and abroad. His festival appearances include the Aspen Music Festival, the Hong Kong Asian Music Festival, the Silk Road circular tour around China, the 8th World Harp Congress, the Geneva Summer Music Festival, and East Meets West at the Japan Cultural Institute in Paris. In 2005 he performed at “Echoes of Eurasia” at the World Expo in Aichi. Sasaki was a featured performer in Music From Japan’s 30th-anniversary concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in 2004.  An ardent Christian, he has performed in more than 600 chapels throughout Japan. He served as Music Director of the Harp Festival in Shirane Togenkyo (1990-93) and taught at Bunka Gakuin (1992-99). He has released four solo CD albums: Jesus bleibet meine Freude (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring), Dona Nobis Pacem, Resurrection with You, and Kugo, Ancient Resonance Reborn, which received an “Outstanding CD” award from Recorded Art.
Kyoko Kato (hokyo percussion) did undergraduate and post-graduate research at the Tokyo College of Music.  Her teachers include Atsushi Sugahara, Tsutomu Noguchi, Makoto Aruga, and Mariko Okada. Kato has appeared with numerous orchestras and in many major music festivals in and outside of Japan.  Some of these are: the Tokyo Summer Festival, Music Today, and the Interlink Festival, and as soloist in the Yomiuri Nikkyo 461st Subscription Concert in a work by Messiaen, among others.  Recent foreign appearances include March, 2011 with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in Hong Kong; as part of the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in the Canary Islands Music Festival; and at the Salzburg Festival.  She has also performed internationally with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, T.I.M.E., and Reigakusha. Additionally, Kato was a finalist in the Kyogaku II competition performing with piano in a duet. As a member of Ensemble from the East, Kato participated in contemporary music festivals in Mexico and Denmark, performing on hokyo in the Hong Kong Music Festival and in lecture concerts in China.  She is an active member of several percussion groups including Percussion Museum, the marimba quartet Wisteria, and SPETZI
Wonjung Kim (soprano) has captivated audiences around the world with her expressive voice and dynamic theatrical flair. She has appeared at the Opera Garnier in Paris, Dresden Semper Opera, Opera de Monte Carlo and Los Angeles Music Center Opera, singing the roles of Vagans in Vivaldi’s Juditha Triumphans, Zeffiro in Albinoni’s Il Nascimento dell’Aurora, Licenza in Mozart’s Il Sogno di Scipione, Amaltea in Rossini’s Moise in Egitto, and Euridice in Bertoni’s Orfeo. Kim has performed throughout Europe, with Claudio Scimone’s I Solisti Veneti, the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Venice’s San Marco Basilica, and at the Salzburg and Istanbul Music Festivals. Named Best Classical Artist in the KBS Awards in Korea, she also received an Ovation Award nomination for her starring performance as Queen Min in The Last Empress, produced at New York’s Lincoln Center and at the Shubert Theater in Los Angeles. Kim has performed in numerous live television and radio broadcasts and has many CDs to her credit. Her most recent CD, Between the Noteswas released recently to great acclaimA champion of new music, she is completing the requirements for a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Stony Brook University and has performed all over the world with New York’s Continuum. Future projects include her own unique theater piece celebrating the music of John Cage, to be performed next season at Lincoln Center.
Mayumi Miyata (sho: 17-pipe, free-reed mouth organ) graduated from Kunitachi College of Music where she was a piano major. After graduation, she began studying the sho under Tadamaro Ono of the Imperial Household Gagaku Orchestra. Since 1979, she has been a member of the Reigakusha gagaku ensemble, founded by the famed Sukeyasu Shiba. Miyata launched her solo career in 1983 with recitals throughout Japan. She has performed worldwide, appearing with such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, NHK Symphony Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, and the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the batons of Dutoit, Ozawa, Ashkenazy, Conlon, and Previn. She has premiered many works written especially for her by Cage, Takemitsu, Maki Ishii, Jean-Claude Eloy, Toshio Hosokawa, Paul Méfano, Klaus Huber, and Helmut Lachenmann. Recently Miyata has collaborated with Bjork, and she is in the process of recording Cage’s complete sho works for Mode Records. She can be credited with making the sho internationally recognized not only in its traditional repertory but also in contemporary music.
Hitomi Nakamura (hichiriki: double-reed vertical flute) completed her master’s in musicology at the Tokyo University of the Arts. She studied gagaku, hichiriki and samai with Sukeyasu Shiba and others. As a member of Reigakusha, Nakamura has performed at the National Theatre of Japan and at the Wien Modern, Lincoln Center, Tanglewood, and Ultima Oslo Contemporary festivals.  She is a winner of the Matsuo Geino Newcomer Prize. In 2002 she led the Music From Japan-sponsored gagaku Ensemble Harena on its successful tour of the U.S. and Canada.  Active in a number of different performance arenas, she has appeared in the premiere performances of many contemporary works, and has played with the Japan Virtuoso Orchestra as well as with Semimaru, the Butoh dancer from the dance group Sankaijuku. Nakamura created the Ashi no Kaze (Reed Wind) Recital Series to promote the hichiriki, which is rarely played as a solo instrument. To date, the series has generated many new additions to the hichiriki repertory, which comprises both ensemble and solo works.
Takeshi Sasamoto (shakuhachi: vertical flute; ryuteki: transverse flute; haisho: pan-flute) was born in Ibaraki prefecture in 1966. He is the son of the headmaster of the Chikuinsha School of kinko-style shakuhachi. Sasamoto studied under Soshu Sasamoto, Wakyo Hatsumi, Reibo Aoki and Goro Yamaguchi. He received both his undergraduate (1989) and master’s (1991) degrees from the Tokyo University of the Arts, after which he worked at the university’s sound laboratory from 1991-1993. While a university student, he was exposed to gagaku music and began studying the ryuteki under Sukeyasu Shiba. He also encountered the musical instruments from the Shosoin collection, and taught himself to play and construct the haisho and gagaku-style shakuhachi. Sasamoto joined Reigakusha in 1991 and has toured extensively, playing shakuhachi, ryuteki and haisho. His publications include Hajimete no Gagaku [Gagaku for Beginners] (Tokyodo, 2003) and Zusetsu Gagaku Nyumon Jiten [Illustrated Dictionary: Introduction to Gagaku] (Kashiwa Shobo, 2006). Sasamoto is also an active composer; his CD Edo-komachi/Takeshi Sasamoto Works 1 (Bamboo, 1994) sold more copies than any other gagaku albums in that year. This was followed by Mankashu/Takeshi Sasamoto Works II (Bamboo, 2000).
About the Music From Japan Chamber Ensemble
Michael P. Atkinson is active in the New York and Brooklyn music scene
as a hornist, composer, arranger, and producer. As a member of the NY-based chamber orchestra The Knights, Atkinson has concertized in the US and Europe, and has recorded for Sony Classical and Ancalagon Records, as well as a live concert issued on DVD. He appeared in a recent documentary about The Knights, produced by WNET/PBS and hosted by Paula Zahn.  As a freelance NYC musician, Michael has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, International Contemporary Ensemble, Orpheus, and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Elizabeth Brown combines a successful composing career with a diverse performing life, playing flute, shakuhachi, theremin, and dan bau (Vietnamese monochord) in a wide variety of musical circles. A 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, Brown has had her music performed in Japan, the Soviet Union, Colombia, Australia and Vietnam as well as across the US and Europe. She is the only musician to have both played with and written for Orpheus. Brown was last April’s Artist-in-Residence in the Grand Canyon, continuing work on a series of solo shakuhachi pieces inspired by particular places in nature. She has given solo moonlight shakuhachi performances in the sculpture quarry of the Lacoste School for the Arts in Provence, and as Artist-in-Residence in both Maine’s Acadia National Park and Isle Royale National Park in the middle of Lake Superior. Brown has been guest composer and thereminist at both Monadnock Music and the Yale Summer School of Music in Norfolk. She played the solo theremin part in Gavriil Popov’s First Symphonic Suite with the American Symphony at Lincoln Center in 2008. Brown performs as flutist with a number of New York-based ensembles, including the American Symphony and New York City Ballet Orchestra, and is a member of the flute quartet Flute Force. She was born in Camden, Alabama. After receiving a Master’s degree in flute performance from the Juilliard School in 1977, she started composing in the late ‘70s. In 2008-09, she lived in Japan on a Cultural Exchange Fellowship supported by the US/Japan Friendship Commission.
Pianist Stephen Gosling earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees at the Juilliard School. During this time he was awarded the Mennin Prize for Outstanding Excellence and Leadership in Music and the Sony Elevated Standards Fellowship, and was featured as concerto soloist an unprecedented four times. Gosling is a member of New York New Music Ensemble, Ensemble Sospeso, Columbia Sinfonietta, and Ne(x)tworks. He has also performed with the New York Philharmonic, Orpheus, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, American Composers Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Riverside Symphony, Speculum Musicae, Ensemble 21, DaCapo Chamber Players, Continuum, SEM Ensemble, the League of Composers/ISCM Chamber Players, and Da Camera of Houston. Gosling has made more than 30 recordings for Albany, Bridge, Capstone, Centaur, CRI, Innova, Koch, Mode, Morrison Music Trust, Naxos, New World Records, and Rattle Records.
Clarinetist Marianne Gythfeldt, a native of Norway, has distinguished herself in chamber music, orchestral and contemporary music performance on the international stage. Gythfeldt is the clarinetist of Ensemble Sospeso and Zephyros Winds. An active performer of avant-garde and electro acoustic music, she works with artist Ashley Pigford in PG2, a sound-art duo. Highlights of recent seasons include a tour to Puerto Rico with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, guest artist performances at West Virginia University, and a command performance with Zephyros Winds at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Beijing.  Gythfeldt is Associate Professor of clarinet and chamber music at the University of Delaware.
Violist Ah Ling Neu’s performing career has spanned several continents, including the U.S., Europe, Australia and Asia. An avid chamber musician, she was a member of the renowned Ridge String Quartet for three seasons, and was invited to the Marlboro Music Festival for four summers in addition to touring with Musicians from Marlboro, and has been a member of New York Philomusica for 20 years. She has recently joined the North Country Chamber Players in New Hampshire. Other festivals include the Bridgehampton Festival, the White Mountain Music Festival, Manchester Music Festival and International Musician’s Seminar in Cornwall, England. Born in Japan of Chinese parents, Neu started viola in the San Francisco public school system at the age of 13.  She continued her studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with Gennady Kleyman and Nobuko Imai at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague. While she was finishing her studies at SFCM she served as an acting member of the San Francisco Symphony for three seasons. Currently Principal violist of the Brandenburg Ensemble and Assistant Principal of the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, Neu performs frequently with several orchestras in the NYC area and is currently on the faculty of Columbia University.
Eriko Sato is a leading violinist on the New York City chamber music scene and a co-concertmaster of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. She has performed as soloist with orchestras in Louisville, San Francisco and Tokyo. Sato was the winner of the Tibor Varga International Competition, the Young Musicians Foundation Competition, and three Japanese National Competitions. She has participated in the Mostly Mozart, Aspen, Sitka, Angel Fire, Gretna, Affinis and Kuhmo Music Festivals, and has appeared regularly with Bargemusic, Chamber Music Northwest, the American String Project, Music From Japan, Caramoor, Dobbs Ferry and the Washington Square Music Festivals. A founding member of the Aspen Soloists, Festival Chamber Music and Salon Chamber Soloists, Sato is also a member of the Elysium, Ecliptica and American Chamber Ensembles. She is an Affiliate Artist of Innovative Music Programs, a company that develops and implements creative ideas with people in the visual and performing arts. With Orpheus, Sato appears on Deutsche Grammophon recordings, and with the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble she can be heard on MusicMasters. She has also recorded for Albany Records, Vanguard, Delos, Elysium and Grenadilla, and has been featured on CBS News’s Sunday Morning. Sato has taught at Queens College and the Aspen Music Festival, and she is currently a faculty member of Bennington Chamber Music Conference, Hoff-Barthelson Music School, and the Mannes College of Music Preparatory Division, where she teaches violin and chamber music. Her first duo CD, Five Not So Easy Pieces, with her husband, pianist David Oei, was recorded on their label Prestissimo.
A pioneer and visionary in the music world, cellist Fred Sherry has introduced audiences on five continents and all 50 United States to the music of our time through his close association with today’s composers. Carter, Davidovsky, Mackey, Rakowski, Satoh, Wuorinen and Zorn have written concertos for Sherry, and he has premiered solo and chamber works dedicated to him by Babbitt, Bermel, Foss, Knussen, Lieberson and Takemitsu, among others. Sherry was a founding member of Tashi and Speculum Musicae; a member of the Group for Contemporary Music, Berio’s Juilliard Ensemble and the Galimir String Quartet; and a close collaborator with jazz pianist and composer Chick Corea. He has been an active performer with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center since the 1970s and was its Artistic Director from 1988 to 1992. Sherry has been a soloist and “sideman” on hundreds of commercial and esoteric recordings. The Fred Sherry String Quartet recordings of the Schoenberg String Quartet Concerto and the String Quartets Nos. 3 and 4 were both nominated for a Grammy. His book, 25 Bach Duets from the Cantatas, was published by Boosey & Hawkes in 2011. It will be followed by Sherry’s long-awaited treatise on contemporary string techniques.
Founded in 2002, the New York Ikuei Academy Chorus performs regularly for graduation ceremonies and in recitals during the school year. Its repertory covers a wide range, from 19th– and early-20th-century Japanese songs to J-pop. In May 2011 the chorus performed at Carnegie Hall in a Japan America charity concert to benefit the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan in March. The mission of the chorus is to become more deeply in touch with Japanese culture through songs in Japanese, as its members enjoy the activity of singing together.
About the interpreter
A familiar face at Music From Japan events, translator, artist and teacher Sharon Nakazato studied and worked in Japan for more than eight years and has lived and worked bi-culturally ever since. She holds a BA and MA from the University of Michigan and did extensive graduate work at Tokyo and Sophia Universities. She has published in English and Japanese. While in Japan she studied Japanese/Chinese Brush Calligraphy extensively with a modern master and received a license to teach. For ten years Nakazato served as Cultural Director of the Yasuragi Japan Arts Center. Presently, in addition to lecturing and workshops she is on the staff of Longview School and actively pursuing her fine arts career, exhibiting widely in the tri-state area in a variety of mediums.
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Music From Japan’s 36th season presented “Flutes from the East and the West” and “Song from the Spirit of Japan” in New York and Washington, DC in February 2011.
Since opening in 1994, the Resource Center for Japanese Music has offered composers, performers, scholars, and the general public the opportunity to access its custom-designed Music From Japan Composer Database and a library of scores, books, magazines, compact discs, etc. of Japanese music. The organization is a rich resource of information to people around the world, providing information on its web site and helping with further access to, or details about, specific works and composers.
A book about Music From Japan, Music, Journey into the Unknown: Music From Japan Festival – A Chronicle by Kotoko Fukunaka, was published by Kozui Kikaku on September 25, 2011. Details (in Japanese) are at this link:
Music From Japan Festival 2012, now in its 37th season, is made possible in part by public funds from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan, for the fiscal year 2011; the New York State Council on the Arts, the state agency; the Asian Cultural Council; and the Japan Foundation New York.
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© 21C Media Group, January 2012


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