Exorcist for the perplexed mind (2015)
for hichiriki and tape electronics
The hichiriki used to be an unfamiliar instrument to me until 2014 when Yukari MISAWA introduced me to it. I was soon fascinated by composing for this instrument, as I had heard related instruments such as the duduk before.
During my compositional work, I was guided by the role of the hichiriki in Japanese traditional gagaku music. Hichiriki is a central instrument for Buddhism and Shintoism. The instrument has a peculiar otherworldly sound, as also described in old Japanese accounts, so I wanted the music to contact some almost uncharted parts of the psyche in a similar way. Much like a ritual, my composition can be seen to progress from a situation possessed by “the spirits” through an awakening and eventually leading to a purification. This exorcism is meant to powerfully purify any obstructing thoughts and biases, though I wanted the procedure to be less that of the aggressive, inconsiderate and fearful Christian-European type and instead more persuasive and convincing.
I imagined an immaterial realm full of thoughts which the hichiriki player,
the exorcist, can start sorting out and repelling. Because of this extraordinary setting, the composition also makes use of playing modes that are unheard of in the traditional hichiriki repertoire. As I later heard at the premiere, my work was the first entity of music to ever be composed for hichiriki and electronics.
The fixed sound media, or “tape” electronics, is mostly made of noise-oriented stereo field recordings and instrumental recordings of the hichiriki itself, the piano and the bass clarinet (which I was able to record with clarinettist Marij van Gorkom). Most sounds, however, are situated in a sound fabric where their original source cannot be identified.
The electronics act at times constructively with the soloist, as well as engulfing, regardless of or competing against the soloist.