THE KOI POND (for 13 String Koto and Chamber Ensemble)
Performed by Ensemble CMN! w/ guest kotoist Masayo Ishigure
The Koi Pond
I. Kohaku Koi (Red and White) – duet for violin and koto (Beverly Shin - violin)
II. Asagi Koi (Blue and Red) – duet for congas and koto (Gabe Globus-Hoenich - congas)
III. Kingginrin Koi (Gold and Silver) – duet for piano and koto (Brian Kovach - piano)
IV. Ochiba Koi (Blue and Yellow) – duet for cello and koto (Iris Jortner - cello)
V. Kumonryu Koi (Black and White) – duet for bass clarinet and koto (Joshua Kovach - clarinet)
VI. Kawarimono Koi (All Varieties) – for the full ensemble
The Koi Pond, for 13 String Koto, Bass Clarinet, Piano, Congas, Violin and Cello, was completed in Philadelphia in February of 2010. The piece was commissioned by Chamber Music Now for kotoist Masayo Ishigure and Ensemble CMN as part of concert production titled “Engawa”.
This work was initially inspired by a collaboration between Chamber Music Now and Philadelphia’s Shofuso Japanese House and Garden. As we discussed the possibility of a commissioning project for there space we discussed a mural by internationally-acclaimed Nihon-ga painter, Hiroshi Senju, one of Japan’s most revered contemporary artists displayed at the home. The work seeks to bring the outside world into the home through a unique work suggestive of cascading waterfalls. The idea of the water surrounding the space caught my interest but more specifically the Koi Pond. While standing on the deck over looking the pond I was immediately brought back to a trip I had taken to Kyoto in 1999. I was fascinated by one particular pond which seemed to be overflowing with Koi. There was a mass a colors swirling around in the water as the fish pushed to greet the people around the pond. Koi are a very social fish that appears to enjoy human contact, I think this alone has given the fish a unique place in my mind and I couldn’t think of a better focus for this work.
The piece is a collection of five duets for each of the ensemble members and the Koto as well as a final movement for the full ensemble. The intent was to explore different ways in which the Koto could behave in each context. Though the instrument have a tremendous repertoire in Japanese traditional music it’s use in a Western context has been limited. I am honored to have had the chance to explore this instrument with the help and input of Masayo Ishigure and I hope you enjoy my perspective on composing for the 13 String Koto.
(World Premiere) March 19, 2011 - The Chapel of St. Joseph, St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia