one shakuhachi player, playing both 1.8 and 2.3 length shakuhachi
19 May 2013, Tokyo National Museum, Kujōkan, Tokyo
Christopher Yohmei Blasdel, shakuhachi
This piece developed out of a long relationship with the shakuhachi player Joe Browning, who commissioned and premiered my shakuhachi concerto locked darkness in 2005. In the autumn of 2009, I was asked by the Tokyo-based German artist Thomas Neumann to collaborate on an installation called Ghosts which would deal with abstractions of urban Japanese life seen from an outsider’s perspective. I took the opportunity to create an electroacoustic work based around specially-composed samples of shakuhachi music recorded for me by Joe. The present piece is a distillation of that 30-minute work into a 12-15 minute solo composition, suitable for concert performance.
One dominant feature of the original electroacoustic work was the interplay between the standard 1.8 shaku (an old Japanese unit of length) flute and the 2.4 shaku flute, which has a deeper, more unstable, sound. This aspect is preserved, and the performer uses both instruments, in this piece. Though the piece does have an overall structure which bears some resemblance to traditional Japanese musical forms, it can also be seen as a series of short pieces, almost a suite of undeveloped motifs, separated by various intervals of silence.