|Okeanos Breeze (2001)|
This piece is particularly special to me, because it was the first time I had ever written for Japanese traditional instruments. You may think that, because I look Japanese, I must have been playing these instruments since I was born. But the truth is, I had never seen and hardly ever even heard them until I went to a concert at the Darmstadt summer school when I was 20 years old. Since that summer I have been fascinated with writing for these instruments.|
A few years later I was delighted when Ensemble Okeanos asked me to write for them.
The instrumentation of this piece wasn’t up to me, I was just asked to write for these particular instruments.
Not only that, but the leader of the ensemble told me that she wanted to use some antique cymbals that she had bought from Hong Kong, and also the Ocean Drum. She demonstrated them to me (over the phone!) and I started writing.
I remember that the piece came very smoothly and I had great fun studying the instruments. Both the sho and the koto suited me very well and inhabited my imagination very naturally. For instance, I usually hate vibrato, and the sho does not use vibrato. I also enjoy the sound of harsh attacks and they are very easy to achieve on the koto. Okeanos Breeze was commissioned to celebrate Japan 2001 and was performed in parallel with the Textural Space textile exhibition. I was asked to complete the piece at such short notice that I did not dwell much on all that clichéd ‘crossing-the-border’, ‘east-meets-west’ rubbish that I see in a lot of publicity material for performances using Japanese instruments.
I was born in Japan but I spent my crucial teenage years in the UK and feel myself to be an equal mix of both cultures.