Kaoru Watanabe: Haruka and Akira

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Welcome. Stay and think.

Kaoru Watanabe: Haruka and Akira

This streamed event series was delightful.  Kaoru's newest music for Japanese flute and taiko made the most of imposed solitude.  Hosted by Shoji Kameda of KaDon, Kaoru answered questions and introduced the pieces from his studio in Brooklyn.

Part 1 -- Oct 10 2020

Three pieces were replayed from video, pre-recorded the day prior.

Sengoku

Kaoru talked about liking words with multiple meanings.  "Sengoku" can refer to Japan's civil war era, or it can mean "1000 bushels", i.e. prosperity.  In the piece, Kaoru moved back and forth between taiko and various shinobue, layering them with a looper (Ableton).  It was a tasteful approach to looping, dodging tediusness and predictability with long phrases and alternating out-of-time and rhythmic passages.  I found the piece more interesting than moving, but I loved the effortlessness of it all.  Using a sampler in my own playing I feel like I'm getting pushed around by the technology.  Kaoru was in control here and created a space for actual music creation.

Covid Etude

This was a short piece for shinobue which Kaoru explained challenged his breath control and referenced breathing in our current culture.  It didn't feel breathless at all to me.

Kibou no Hikari

This was my favorite piece of the set.  The sweet/sad melodies made me cry.

 

Part 2 -- Oct 17 2020

Roots 

This was an improvisation within a predetermined structure.  The layering was less interesting to me than Sengoku but I really liked the drumming with two different bachi here.

Fue Take Ni

In the introduction of this piece, Kaoru deftly explained bits of the Tale of Gengi and how both his name and the flute enter into the story.  I found myself impressed with Kaoru the person -- knowledgeable, bilingual.  Interestingly, that mindset of admiration wasn't helpful for getting into the piece.  Perhaps an introduction that is more mysterious, and more questioning than explicative.

Merge

I had the same experience here, where Kaoru very sweetly talking about his love for his partner overly exaggerated the "sweetness" of the piece.  The opening koto parts are amazing, plucked and strummed melodies layered into a delightful groove.  I realized at that moment how I'd been craving a pulse.  The kane and taiko parts sounded great and Kaoru is so good at playing along to the click in his headphones without the playing losing any life.  He felt totally in control of the rhythms and everything was cohesive.  The Japanese and English lyrics were too sweet for me but that's so subjective I hesitate to even say it.
 

Notes for self

  • The technical challenges of streaming are rough and really interfere with audience enjoyment.  Think of how NDT did it.  Find professionals.
  • When using looping, watch Binkbeats "Heartbreaks" again to get ideas for breaking up monotony.
  • Remember how Kaoru's live drumming never clashed with the looped tracks.  Practice isn't enough to get there.  Record and listen back relentlessly!
  • As host, no need to comment on the last piece.  "Beautiful!" etc.  Just move into the next question.