Percussion Keyboards Strings Winds Mixed Ensembles Electronic         

Kawanakajima
for vibraphone and electronic music

Work no. 221
2022

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    Part of an ongoing (as of April 2022) series of canons for percussionist Amy Salsgiver. The electronic portion of the piece has four layers, three playing the same melody in various ways (slowed down, forwards and backwards, forwards with audio reversed). The fourth layer is soft wind noise; a percussionist provides the fifth layer using the vibraphone to play the same melody, but with the rhythm very free: a dreamy, distant rendering of the canon's subject.

    Kawanakajima is a valley located between the Sai River and Chikuma River in what is now the city of Nagano, Japan. During Sengoku period (1467–1615), Kawanakajima was the site of a series of bloody battles, including one that was paricularly famous in Japanese military history: The Battle of Kawanakajima, 1561. One of Kuniyoshi's triptychs shows the night of the battle, with a mountain illuminated by moonlight, and the fighting shown in silhouette in the background.

    Ukiyo-e inspiration makes this a pendant piece to 田毎月, composed just before. The Russo-Ukrainian War was still ongoing. And thinking of Kawanakajima, I remembered a passage from Iain Banks' Use of Weapons:
    The sky was aquamarine, stroked with clouds. She could smell the grass, and taste the scent of small, crushed flowers. She looked back up over her forehead at the grey-black wall towering behind her, and wondered if the castle had ever been attacked on days like this. Did the sky seem so limitless, the waters of the straits so fresh and clean, the flowers so bright and fragrant, when men fought and screamed, hacked and staggered and fell and watched their blood mat the grass?
    That's the music I wanted to compose.


    Kawanakajima – PDF score


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