«SHIKI – Seasons of Japan»
Fantasia after Japanese songs (2012)
By Shingo Fujii
Following the terrible disaster of March 2011 Japan, my friend Bill Kanengiser and I discussed the idea of creating a new work for LAGQ and guitar orchestra, as a celebration of Japan’s spirit. The idea for the piece came to me all at once: a Fantasia based on traditional Japanese melodies that follow the changing of the seasons, and remind us of the fateful Spring of 2011. The word Shiki strictly means “seasons”, but it can also represent “fighting spirit”, “rituals”, “the time of one’s death”, and “conducting”. In conducting my friends in LAGQ and the members of the guitar orchestra, I hope that our ritual brings back the fighting spirits of those who lost their lives.
The four movements of “Shiki” are played without pause, like the continuously streaming time of nature’s flow. The first movement, “Spring”, begins with a recurring theme of three notes: “D—E—D”, (which can be read as “Re-Mi-(n)D”) to remind us of Spring 2011. This is followed by settings of two songs: “Hitome – Futame” (One, Two, …)”, a song sung when children play Hanetsuki (an old Japanese game similar to badminton) and the famous “Sakura” (Cherry Blossoms) , meant to evoke the beauty and fragility of life.
The second movement, “Summer”, starts with “Tako, Tako agare” (Fly away, fly away, kite)”, representing children playing outdoors on a windy day. Framed by short interludes for the guitar orchestra, a tremolo solo for Scott presents “Hamabe no Uta” (Song of the Seashore) by T.Narita, imitating splashing waves on a sunny beach. The third movement “Autumn” begins with a darker interlude for Matt and John in duo, followed by a short improvisation by Bill based on shamisen textures. This leads to “Oborozukiyo” (Hazy Moon at Twilight) by T. Okano” accompanied by orchestra, which is then combined with the tune “Furusato” (Home) by T. Okano. A short postlude leads to the final movement “Winter”, which is a rondo-form treatment of “Antagata-Dokosa?” (Where are you from?)”, a song that captures children’s spirit of delight and happiness, and fills us with hope for the future.