shakuhachi and shamisen (2011)

(audio coming soon!)

duration: 9:21

Afterimage Premiere, Roulette

Afterimage Premiere, Roulette

premiere: Nov. 10, 2011
Interpretations series, Roulette, Brooklyn, NY
Ralph Samuelson, shakuhachi; Yoko Hiraoka, shamisen

program note

Afterimage (2011), for shakuhachi and shamisen, was written for Ralph Samuelson and Yoko Hiraoka. I started writing it in the Grand Canyon, where I was April 2011 Artist-in-Residence. The title refers to a moment when I was walking along the south rim, and suddenly had a clear afterimage of a scene I’d just passed; I immediately wrote it down in music so I wouldn’t forget it. Over time, this music developed into a group of short movements connected by frames, while the once-vivid afterimage experience itself has become softened by memory.

I began studying Kinko School shakuhachi with Ralph Samuelson in 1984, and this music and his guidance are perhaps the most significant influence on all the music I write. Samuelson’s transcendent playing was always in my head when I was writing Afterimage, and the shakuhachi writing is expressive but calm, almost beyond emotion. The role of the shamisen is more complicated emotionally: Hiraoka is given the challenge of respecting and fitting inside tradition, while simultaneously bursting to have her individual voice heard; she represents all my anxieties, and her textless singing is an extension of the shakuhachi’s sound. So the two players express what I aspire to, and what I am in spite of it.