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NewMusicBox

July 1, 2005
by Julia Werntz



In Kaze-No-Oka Ueno drew upon the Japanese aesthetic principle of “shawari” - important to Takemitsu, and now to Ueno himself. To put this many-sided concept into a nutshell, “shawari” can translate as “beautiful noise,” “to touch,” or “obstacle,” and for the artist can mean the use of a deliberate “inconvenience,” desired for its creative potential. A relevant example can be heard in the metallic sounds, above the pitches themselves, which emanate from the biwa. Ueno applied this principle to his orchestral writing by combining the instruments in close, sometimes buzzing, microtonal sonorities, and using other instrumental noises - even white noise from the mouths of the players - creating very sensual “artifacts of sound,” as he calls them, with a structural rather than ornamental function. The biwa and shakuhachi duo itself was set against the Western orchestra in a dramatic manner. Unlike November Steps, in which the writing for the two instruments is temporally interspersed with the orchestral writing, in Kaze-No-Oka they appeared only after the orchestral section of the piece had fully concluded, in a cadenza which seemed to last as long as the first part of the piece. This was Ueno's response to BMOP's request that the shakuhachi and biwa part be usable as an independent composition, for another concert event. Many composers might shy away from separating these elements so completely, for fear of incongruity. But the tension at the moment of the duo's entry, the sustained intensity and relatedness of the music despite the sudden drop in density, the surprising length of the cadenza - these things resulted in a piece with its own strong sense of balance and “meaning.”







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