MEG FAGAN, Producer

Somei Satoh

KyoShin (2012) - Shakuhachi, Koto and String Quartet.

Somei Satoh is a composer of the post-war generation whose hauntingly evocative musical language is a curious fusion of Japanese timbral sensibilities with 19th century Romanticism and electronic technology. He has been deeply influenced by Shintoism, the writings of the Zen Buddhist scholar DT Suzuki, his Japanese cultural heritage as well as the multimedia art forms of the sixties. Satoh's elegant and passionate style convincingly integrates these diverse elements into an inimitably individual approach to contemporary Japanese music.

Born in Sendai (northern Honshu), Japan in 1947, Satoh currently lives in Tokyo. Largely self-taught as a composer he came to musical creation through the spiritual exercises of both Shintoism and Zen Buddhism. In the early 1970s, after attending the Nihon University of Art, Satoh joined the Tone Field performance group, an experimental inter-arts ensemble which performed his earliest composition. These early compositions include those for solo piano or for piano with electronics in which he explored gradations of sound by employing tremolos of single tones or clusters using the instrument's various registers of dynamics.

In some ways, Satoh's techniques and career path paralleled those of the American minimalists. His music, like theirs, has developed in complexity and sophistication over the years. Over the course of the 1970s, his instrumental palette diversified and his music took on a greater melodiousness. By the 1980s, his music became more sensual after the model of the Romantic tradition. A visiting artist grant from the Asian Cultural Council enabled him to spend a year in the United States in 1983. Eventually, he received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, Bang on a Can, and the New York Philharmonic, among others. His compositions include works for piano, orchestra, chamber music, choral and electronic music, theater pieces and music for traditional Japanese instruments, and many have been recorded for New Albion, Lovely Music, Mode, and Alm Records.

In Satoh's own words, “My music is limited to certain elements of sound and there are many calm repetitions. There is also much prolongation of a single sound. I think silence and the prolongation of sound is the same thing in terms of space. The only difference is that there is either the presence or absence of sound. More important is whether the space is "living" or not. Our [Japanese] sense of time and space is different from that of the West. For example, in the Shinto religion, there is the term 'imanaka' which is not just the present moment which lies between the stretch of past eternity and future immortality, but also the manifestation of the moment of all time which is multi-layered and multi-dimensional...I would like it if the listener could abandon all previous conceptions of time and experience a new sense of

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