Tone Poem Tuesday

 Works that are entirely for percussion are always interesting. I just discovered this one today: it is called Six Japanese Gardens, for mixed percussion and electronics, written by Finnish composer Kaija Saarioho. Not only did I just discover this work today, I just discovered Saariaho today! Apparently a BBC poll of musicians and composers ranked her as the greatest living composer, which seems to indicate to me that there’s a lot of fruitful exploring to do, as far as her music goes.

This work is a dreamy and meditative piece (not all percussion pieces are loud headbangers!), apparently commissioned by a music school in Japan in remembrance of that country’s own great composer, Toru Takemitsu. Saariaho has written that her basis for the piece was, as the title indicates, impressions of six gardens she saw while in Kyoto during the summer of 1993.

It’s a very interesting piece, by turns calming and exciting, as Saariaho explores specific rhythms in each section of the work and accompanies the soundworld of the percussion instruments with prerecorded electronic material. It all blends together to make a fascinating dreamscape of a piece. Solo percussion works, for me, always have something of a cleansing effect: without tone or melody (for the most part), my ear is able to focus on something else entirely: rhythm and pure sound, and the form that follows from the use of these instruments as exclusive expressive devices.

Give this a listen!

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