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My long previous entry “Anxiety and the Exotic” seems to be quite a fruitful ground for mp3 blog posts. For this entry I thought I’d just focus on two perspectives on the exotic – one from an insider and one from an outsider.
Although Toru Takemitsu was Japanese he was quite reluctant towards composing for traditional Japanese instruments. “In an Autumn Garden” (and the other movements in the larger eponymous cycle of which this piece is the center) is in fact the only work he wrote for the traditional Japanese Gagaku orchestra. Possibly because Takemitsu spent most of his career writing contemporary music for Western instruments his approach to the Gagaku, although filled with traditional approaches, is far more viscous and ghostly than the music in its traditional repertoire. To be honest, although I absolutely adore Takemitu’s approach to western orchestration, this is really my favorite of his compositions.
Scelsi’s complete “Canti del Capricorno” (from which this live performance takes excerpts) for the Japanese singer Michiko Hirayama is arguably one of Scelsi’s finest works and best representations of his esthetic position. Scelsi worked intensively with Michiko Hirayama who commissioned them while writing these works. Since these songs borrow so heavily from many of the world’s incantatory traditions it is actually impossible to place them concretely within any specific tradition. As a result the work is at once traditional, contemporary, completely personal, and brilliant.
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I should also note that I know the above photo is neither a Japanese or autumn garden, in fact I took it in the Chinese garden at Montréal’s beautiful botanical gardens last summer.