With much appreciation, I want to first express my gratitude to the Canada Council for the Arts for funding my recently completed residency in Japan in leading up to the commencement of the NAE project which is now underway in Toronto.
In February of this year, the final grant funding was approved for the NAE project and this provided sufficient funds to undergo a residency in Japan. In the lead up to applying for this funding I reached out to industry leaders, Akira Katogi in folk and festival performance and Yusuke Kuribayashi a Noh-kan flute player actively performing in the Noh stage circuit in Tokyo, Japan and known abroad in performances in Europe and Asia.
For the NAE project which is a composition-based project that will produce new music based in Japanese music traditions, this residency was designed to provide valuable insights and techniques that will appear in the NAE project compositions. Notably, my time in Achi village with Akira Katogi focused on exploring the structure, composition and originating themes of a variety of regional festival music. As a modern art form, taiko ensemble music is widely seen as a 20th century fusion of modern Jazz influence with Japanese festival taiko, which evolved to ultimately introduce taiko music to new audiences globally. Much of the most iconic music of the genre, however, directly originates from ceremonial, theatre and festival music with traditions that are centuries old. In writing music for traditional instruments, it is sometimes too easy to fall into the habit of using them as catchy sound bites in otherwise modern music mixes. Leaving me to ask the question: “when and why do I want to hear these sounds?” as I approach the blank page and prepare to write using traditional instruments and influences. In several intense weeks living in the private dojo of Katogi-san and observing him in his work and practice, I believe his answer to these questions were to be found in our routine of mountaineering, farming, hunting and cleaning as much as they were to be found in any instruction or guidance provided in our time in the dojo.
Cutting to the second half of my residency, I moved from the mountainous rural setting of Achi village to the bustle of Tokyo where I was immediately and thoroughly steeped in the world of Noh theatre. My mentor Yusuke Kuribayashi, had me to his studio where I learned Noh-kan technique, history and music. As part of my study I regularly attended theatre performances, many of which he was performing in and spent my off hours in karaoke booths preparing and rehearsing for my lessons. I cannot emphasize enough how unique it was to be in such close proximity to Mr. Kuribayashi during this time. It was incredibly unique to see him in live public performance and to then be able to sit down in lessons and pick hi