Sawari. A Japanese word that can be translated as noise. T. Takemitsu described it as “an intentional inconvenience that creates a part of the expressiveness of the sound”. Most traditional Japanese musical instruments display a tendency towards what we would call imperfect sound. Strings are strung in such a way that they make a buzzy sound, and flutes are constructed to add a lot of wind noise to a tone. Other traditional Japanese instruments also create a living tone; a tone that tells a story and has a powerful expression of itself. As an increasing number of young Japanese composers show interest in their musical heritage, this quest for a rich colour palette is renewed.

Interestingly, these composers mostly write music for western instruments, which are traditionally perfected to produce a noise-free sound. An important factor in this research project is a dialogue with the new generation of Japanese composers and the analysis of their works. However, also in western music culture, many composers experimented with extended techniques to make instruments sound not quite like themselves. On the other end of the spectrum, historically informed performance practice demonstrates that subtle changes in timing, dynamics, balance, etc. can result in different sound textures, possibly even without using period instruments.

Furthermore, live electronics add another continent to the sound worlds that can be travelled, using a piano. This broadening of the sound spectrum in all directions adds up to one big colour chart, with a plethora of possibilities, from subtle arpeggiating of chords, choosing the right instrument and using its full potential, to extended techniques, preparations and live electronics. The almost endless terrain can, however, be a place to get lost in. Through the metaphor of another instrument, we can navigate this terrain, discover the piano's potential anew and attune our ears to find similarities with instruments from other cultures. This in itself is a metaphor for how we can discover other cultures and find common ground.

Color Chart for the Traveling Pianist

Sonically Informed Performance Practice of Recent Japanese Piano Music as Inspiration
project team
Lukas Huisman
01.10.2018 – 30.10.2024
piano, extended techniques, japan, traditional