Fragments for the Moon

shakuhachi and nohkan (2010)

(excerpt) Premiere performance: Music from Japan
Elizabeth Brown, shakuhachi and Kohei Nishikawa, nohkan

duration: 10′

program note

fragments for the moon (2010) for nohkan and shakuhachi

  1. Netori Story
  2. March
  3. Narrow Music
  4. Soft March
  5. Haiku Contest
  6. Nightcalls

fragments for the moon (2010), for nohkan and shakuhachi, was commissioned by Music From Japan for their ‘Flutes from East and West’ program, which I performed with Kohei Nishikawa in NYC and at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC in 2011. We also performed fragments for the moon at the World Shakuhachi Festival 2012 in Kyoto, Japan.

When I was living in Japan in 2009, a mutual friend introduced me to Kohei Nishikawa, who was looking for new pieces for his flutes. As he demonstrated each instrument, I was immediately drawn to the nohkan, whose unusual interior construction creates an asymmetrical scale unlike any other flute. The nohkan shares certain characteristics with the shakuhachi, and they are the same things that drew me to shakuhachi many years ago: each instruments has a lonely and mysterious voice, and both emphasize gesture and timbre over uniformity of sound.

Some of the differences between the instruments inspired me as well, especially in regard to silence. The nohkan’s piercing cries clear the air so that the silence afterwards becomes charged, while the shakuhachi often dissolves completely into silence, becoming part of it. In these brief, fragile pieces, the flutes emerge and recede from the night as they speak antiphonally or in tandem. I worked closely with Kohei Nishikawa throughout the composition of the pieces, and am grateful for his ongoing attention, expertise and enthusiasm.