Sakanoue No Tamuramaro : Concerto for Percussion and Blown Instruments

Posted: June 24, 2013 in Press

ShinobiScholarly research has its ups and downs, and composing musical works that celebrate ancient history is no easy task. Researching the life of Sakanoue No Tamuramara on-line, I’ve come across several racist remarks denying his ethnicity as a black man.  In fact, I’ve been repeatedly ignored in my queries by the East Asian Studies Department at Kansas University.  So, once again people, if you want to know something, find it yourself!  My personal research has located in excess of thirty books, journals, and newspaper articles pertaining to my subject at hand; with references dating back as far as the late nineteenth century.  That’s damn impressive!

So, I’ve gathered enough historical facts from Japanese, European, and American historians and anthropologists to ground myself as I compose.  Unofficially, I’m an ethnomusicologist, and I find it necessary to thoroughly research whatever or whomever it is that I plan to compose a new musical work regarding.

I’m excited that I have acquired the artistic services of Mr. Steve Lambert, who will create an original pencil/charcoal work of art to accompany the music.  Also, the Japanese Council of Greater Kansas City has included the coming November concert premier on their calendar.

Am I nervous?  Am I doing too much?  No!  It’s the duty of an artist or scholar to educate through their medium.  If I am unable to educate through my work, than what I do is useless and should have no residence in the furtherance of humanity.  Although my career in music spans over twenty-five years, my double life as a martial artist spans over thirty years.  My training in Koga-ryu Ninjutsu and Genbukan Ninpo Bugei/Kokusai Jujutsu Renmei keep me on a straight path; seeing a mission through to its end, not wavering.

As I compose, the task is hardly easy.  I do not have the freedom to write for indigenous Japanese instruments, neither a plethora of similar sounding instruments that would be ideal.  I am limited to the instrumentation of a double woodwind quintet with a solo percussionist.  My ability to improvise in such a situation is pertinent.  Therefore, I call upon vocal techniques from the ensemble, along with the percussionist’s existing setup (with a few additional items).  Yes, it’s fun.  The process keeps my mind exploring new ways to voice certain musical ideas.  But, something that is always at the fore with my music is that I never want to write anything that goes over peoples’ heads.  The listening audience should be able to enjoy the music, and the music should be fashioned in such a way that it engages the listener’s imagination, creating a visual scenario in their mind…….almost like a movie.  In other words, I don’t allow academia to interfere with my creative process.  That’s another topic of its own at another time in the near future.

As for right now, well, back to the lab I go!



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