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Canada Council residency – NAE project Japan カナダ・カウンシルによる「なえ」ジャパンの研修


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.

Minakuchi Festival 2019

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.

Tokyo Noh performance of Takasago, 2019

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 his brains about the performances I'd just seen. I suppose that those more familiar with the experience of live performance would value this otherwise secret world more, nevertheless it was invaluable.

Self-learning is a huge part of Japanese music and most technique is developed through brief and fast passed sessions of singing, beating rhythms and examining scores, with the remaining study a combination of observation of performance and long years of hands on struggle. The brevity of the period of study meant that I had to attend the equivalent of many months of study in a few weeks. The demands of the relentless schedule and on me to keep up, but equally upon my teacher, in being able to put aside the time amidst his very busy schedule were exhausting. Despite it all, I came away with volumes of resources and materials to build upon in my composition work, new insight and respect for this ancient art form and discipline, a challenging instrument and genre to explore and full of energy and optimism.

To both mentors, Mr. Akira Katogi and Mr. Yusuke Kuribayashi, I must express my deepest gratitude for their support and guidance. Neither of my mentors spared any chance to fulfil my requests for guidance. Both went well beyond what could be normally expected of an instructor to provide me with deeply informative and inspiring activities and experiences – having evidently taken a great deal of time to consider the nature of my project and planned their guidance and activities to maximize their potential utility to my ultimate goals.

I am truly grateful to the Canada Council for the Arts for this opportunity!

Looking back on my time there, flipping through my stack of note books and new music in the NAE project studio where I will continue to write and record the compositions for this project – I am overwhelmed to think what it took to come to this day and very excited to continue this work tomorrow.









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