MP3 Blog #102: “Towards ‘The Midnight Sun’”

Joji Yuasa: Towards “The Midnight Sun”  –  Homage to Ze-Ami (1984)

For piano and quadraphonic computer generated tape

Performed by Cecil Lytle

This recording is currently out of print.  Another one featuring pianist Aleck Karis is available here.

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Program Note:

Towards “The Midnight Sun” - Homage to Ze-Ami was composed and realized on the CARL computer music system at the Center for Music Experiment (CME) at the University of California at San Diego … in the Spring of 1984.  It is my second composition for computer, coming after My Blue Sky in Southern California, realized in 1976 at CME.  The premiere performance was given on June 3, 1984 at Lincoln Center in New York City, as part of the Horizon ’84 Festival, with Alan Feinberg as the pianist.

Two characteristic sound sources are used in this work: synthesized white noise bands; and recorded concrete sounds such as a resonant stone struck with a mallet, a stick of bamboo, sleigh bell, clay bells and a brandy glass.  All the sounds are manipulated, formed and transformed by the computer, and then localized in a virtual space, the size of which can be varied to produce different aural sensations of spatial depth.

The aim in this work is to present a musical environment in which the audience can experience a total involvement in the kinetic manipulation of the synthesized sound and the pianist’s spontaneous interaction.  The role of the pianist here is as a communicator of this ritualistic work rather than as a competitive one in the concert.  Spatial manipulation of sound has been a continual topic of research for me since Icon on the Source of White Noise (1967), which makes extensive use of sound movement between five channels.

The titles is taken from the Nine Grades by Ze-Ami, the fifteenth-century establisher of Noh theatre in Japan.  In this work, Ze-Ami utilized a Zen koan: “In Shinra, the sun appears clearly at midnight,” to explain the indescribable state of extraordinary transcendence achieved as the ultimate attainment in Noh practice.

-Joji Yuasa

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