JAMES NYORAKU SCHLEFER, Artistic Director
MEG FAGAN, Producer

Our Mission

Kyo-Shin-An Arts is dedicated to the integration of Japanese classical instruments—specifically shakuhachi, koto and shamisen—in Western classical music. We are facilitating, commissioning and producing new works and concerts that bring forth the outstanding virtuosity of the Japanese tradition within the context of chamber ensembles and orchestras. Uniquely positioned at the intersection of Western and Japanese classical music, Kyo-Shin-An Arts’ projects capture the energy sparked by cross-cultural collaborations between two highly structured, formal disciplines in a contemporary context.

Japanese and Western classical music traditions share a great many things; adherence to structure, long histories of musical evolution, and a significant range of distinct periods and styles as well as music of breathtaking beauty. The training in both disciplines is rigorous and high standards prevail for both performance and composition. Despite obvious differences in form and sonority, these traditions also display many similarities and can be remarkably compatible.

In the past there have been notable occasions in which these unique forms have been merged, but now the time has come to truly establish a musical legacy that incorporates both cultures.

In the 1940s, the American composer Henry Cowell was possibly the first Westerner to study Japanese music and write compositions that featured Japanese instruments. The well-known composer Toru Takemitsu began to explore this creative direction in the early 1960s, when his colleague and friend John Cage inspired him to discover his own Japanese classical tradition. His concerto for biwa and shakuhachi, November Steps, was premiered by the New York Philharmonic in 1967, under the direction of Seiji Ozawa. He wrote a second concerto for the same instrumentation in 1973. At the time there were few artists capable of playing the work and thus performance opportunities were limited.

Over 35 years have passed since then, and today, a significant number of performers of Japanese traditional instruments around the world excel in both the Japanese and Western classical traditions and are fluent in both styles of musical notation. Many of these artists (who can be found living in the United States, Japan, Europe, and Australia) share the virtuosity of the best performers in the Western tradition. There is also a critical mass of interest in bringing these two sophisticated traditions together in concert. A significant number of contemporary composers – both Japanese and Western – have already ventured in this direction. The Kyo-Shin-An Arts project however, is the first formal, high-profile program in this arena.

To accomplish its goals, Kyo-Shin-An Arts is working internationally with great composers, virtuosos from the Japanese tradition, and top Western ensembles to create artistic partnerships and perform the new repertoire. The commissions may include chamber or orchestral works, concertos, tone poems or song cycles. Kyo-Shin-An Arts will commission the music and assist with guest artists’ fees, travel and related expenses, as well as program administration. Performing partners will include the works as part of their regular season.

© 2016 Kyo-Shin-An Arts