Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Honesty, empathy and gaman


Miya Masaoka's 3-movement work Triangle of Resistance is a harrowing, moving presentation of her mother's life during her family's and community's internment during World War II, under Executive Order 9066 against Japanese-Americans.  This re-telling shows great honesty and empathy, expressed through the string sounds of the mid-20th century avant-garde mixed with Japanese instruments. Masaoka herself plays the koto, while the percussion played by Satoshi Takeishi includes Buddhist prayer singing bowls, gongs, taiko, changgu, and other drums. There is confusion and sorrow and pain and anger in the wrenching beginning of The Long Road, a frightening journey of a Junior High School girl from the comforts and familiarity of home to the internment camp. The second movement, The Clattering of Life, expresses the quotidian boredom, loss of privacy and jarring sounds of a harsh imprisonment. There is some redemption in the third movement, Survival, found through the Japanese concept of gaman. Masaoka explains:
This describes the part of the personality or community that can endure and withstand hardship, yet continue to persevere in spite of all odds. This gaman, is in part, a kind of resistance.

Triangle of Resistance: String Quartet Excerpt from Miya Masaoka on Vimeo.

The Four Moons of Pluto is a 16-minute tour de force for a single instrument, the double bass, played by an outstanding musician, James Ilgenfritz. Though written in a completely different style, this music is to me somewhat reminiscent of Bach's Cello Suites. Both explore the range of sounds available for the chosen instruments, and both have an underlying mathematical basis, a cerebral component of emotionally powerful music. Masaoka, who has created music installations in connection with plants and insects, plugs in to the celestial "music of the spheres" in this work. With so much interest in the recent NASA missions to Pluto and the other far planets, this music might help win new audiences for Masaoka's music. It certainly deserves to.

This disc is due for release on August 26, 2016. Go to the Innova website for more information, including an excerpt from the title work, and a PDF of the liner notes.

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