for solo piano and projection
circa 28 minutes
PROGRAM NOTES by the composer:
"36 Views of Mount Fuji" is a piece written for my good friend, the internationally acclaimed pianist Natsuki Fukasawa. As with many of my pieces, I draw inspiration from the performer as a starting point. Sometimes, that inspiration comes from the instrument they play, sometimes it comes from the place or occasion of the premiere, and others, like this one, are inspired by the identity of the performer herself, in this case, as a Japanese-American artist. Natsuki’s love of Japanese visual-artists of the 1800’s led me to explore the work of Katsushika Hokusai and his iconic collection of woodblock prints, 36 Views of Mount Fuji, which includes the famous Great Wave of Kanagawa. I was intrigued on many levels by this collection, not only by the graphic depiction of various aspects of Japanese society and nature, but by the history of the collection itself – that it was an international export in Hokusai’s day. I, being an American composer living in the 21stCentury, could not help but interpret these Eastern images into a modern Western idiom, just as the French saw these same prints through their eyes in the 1800’s.
In terms of the mechanics of the piece, there are all sorts of numerical operations in play that the common audience member need not know to enjoy the music itself. Suffice it to say that the piece is tightly organized around the number 36 in all its divisions. For those counting, you would not by wrong to find that each of the 36 pieces is about 36 seconds long; and for those listening intensely, you might find connections between every group of 3 pieces. The entire work is meant to be heard in two halves, each being 18 pieces long. In terms of the notes themselves, I am often using the hexotonic scale, which as the name suggests is a scale made of 6 notes, a number easily used to organize the group of 36. I was drawn to this scale because of its symmetry (every two notes has the exact same interval – a minor 3rdplus a minor 2nd), its inherent exoticism as compared to the European major/minor system, and because it can serve to provide a great deal of contrast depending on which notes of the scale are brought out. For example, when depicting the working-class people, I often focus on the more dissonant intervals, bringing out their machine-like motions and imagining their ardor. When depicting the nobility class, I focus on the more consonant intervals, and try to portray their easier daily life. While listening to each movement, one might also pay close attention to the natural elements in play – the birds, the water, the trees, and how those might have been worked into each miniature.
While all of these rules would seem to constrain creativity, I find that the more I impose on myself from the beginning, the more free I am in the process of composition. What resulted is a highly organized, varied, personal and virtuosic piano piece that draws my impression of these wonderful images in musical form. Many thanks to Natsuki Fukasawa for bringing 36 Views of Mount Fuji to life and exporting it back into the world.
36 Views of Mount Fuji - pictures and score (instant download)
36 pictures for projection and a 60 page score in portrait layout