Program Notes



"Chidori" was composed in the late Edo Period (c.1855); a time in which Japanese art was perhaps over-saturated with technique and lavish display. "Chidori," however, looks back to an earlier and purer form of composition. Written by Yoshizawa Kengyō, the original version is a setting of two classical poems for koto and voice, and the work brilliantly captures the plaintive cry and erratic flight of the plover: a migratory shore bird. Over time, it became a frequent practice for the shakuhachi to join the koto in performances. This solo shakuhachi version was created for the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival performance with Exit Dance. The music is in three sections; a stately opening to accompany the first poem, a fast instrumental interlude, and a return to the slower feeling to accompany the second poem.

'Maeuta' (Opening Song)
The plovers themselves, that nestle on Mt. Shio and on Sashide's shores,
Are singing this prayer to the gods:
May the Emperor's reign prosper!
May it last a thousand years!

'Atouta' (Closing Song)
As they fly to and from Awaji Island, the plovers' restless cries fill the air;
How many nights, now, has it been that the Suma Gate keepers have lain awake thus?
How many nights has it been?

The Shakuhachi is an end-blown bamboo flute that has been played in Japan for over 1200 years. It is the only instrument associated with the practice of Zen Buddhism, and was played as a form of meditation by priests of the Fuke sect. During the Edo Period (1600-1868), Shakuhachi-playing monks known as Komusô ("Priests of Nothingness") wandered throughout Japan, from temple to temple, learning new pieces and playing the shakuhachi in exchange for food or alms. Today, the unique sound of the shakuhachi is catching the imagination of composers throughout the world.

Program notes by the composer