"You are inside a snow globe. But instead of a mini landscape and plastic snowflakes there are notes and sounds. Some of the notes swirl past your head, birds flapping their wings and calling. Others ricochet off the glass of the globe, spinning unpredictably. Some plummet to the floor and splinter into shards while other congeal and swell into soft pulsating masses. Welcome to the shakuhachi world of Frank Denyer as realized by Yoshikazu Iwamoto.
You get the sense of uncompromising personal vision, generating music having few precedents and quoting no one. Spare and austere. The sparseness of the proceedings gives minute gestures sweeping powers. The purity of the tone echoes in space, sounds continuing in your head after they are no longer audible. Like a Japanese karensui rock garden which depicts the universe with a few stones and some gravel.
The Performer: Yoshikazu Iwamoto comes from the KSK shakuhachi line of Katsuya Yokoyama. This school produces excellent technicians and Iwamoto was one of the very best. "Was" because since producing this recording he disappeared into self imposed exile after renouncing all his human relationships. It is said he no longer plays. This is particularly strange because prior to all this he was an advocate of the shakuhachi life, encouraging students to play as much as possible.
The Music: "Quite White" is a solo piece exploring pianissimo on shakuhachi with notes that would not usually be played quietly. Iwamoto displays remarkable control of pitch and dynamics. "Wheat" I-VI are a series of short musical vignettes alternating between percussion/shakuhachi duets and solo pieces. Although the CD is billed as music for shakuhachi it is also a remarkable display of percussion as atmospherics and texture. The percussion never settles into an obvious rhythm, which is very refreshing. Titling songs "Unnamed" or "On, On, It Must Be So" seems Beckettian and this music shares some of the arid rigour of Beckett's aesthetic.
Denyer and Iwamoto met while both were on the faculty at Wesleyan University in the '70's. Iwamoto challenged Denyer to compose music for the shakuhachi and promised to learn it no matter how difficult and how long it would take. Thus this CD is replete with technical hurdles handled with aplomb by Iwamoto. For this reason and for the intense compositional discipline the CD is a landmark shakuhachi recording. There is something heroic about Iwamoto and Denyer creating this mountain of music to climb. It'll be a long time before anything as extreme as this comes along. Anybody who is interested in shakuhachi or contemporary wind music will find this album fascinating."-Brian Ritchie, Shakuhachi Forum
Related Categories of Interest:
Percussion & Drums
Cultural Musics from Around the World
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
London & UK Free Improvisation Scene
Search for other titles on the Another Timbre label.