Elizabeth Brown and Robert Carl, shakuhachi; Ryan Hare, bassoon; Aleksander Sternfeld-Dunn, laptop; Katie Kennedy, cello; Bill Solomon, vibraphone; Sayun Chang, percussion
Robert Carl (b. 1954) has long been interested in Japanese music and culture, and in the spring of 2007 he received a grant from the Asian Cultural Council to travel to Japan to interview Japanese composers between the ages of thirty and sixty—his contemporaries, whom he describes as the “post-Takemitsu” generation. The complex interplay of history, culture, and memory has long occupied Carl’s thoughts, and forms the basis of his musical exploration of Japan.
Carl’s perspective of the relationship between American and Japanese musical cultures was sharpened by his interaction with the composers he met in Japan, and he identifies three main aesthetic differences, all of which characterize the works included on this recording. “In Japan,” Carl points out, there is “a far greater emphasis on perfection of individual sounds” and “a greater understanding of the role of silence, how it frames and highlights sound.” He also notes that Japanese composers tend to conceive of polyphony as “an outgrowth of heterophony; hence there is one melodic line that generates both harmony and counterpoint.” Another salient feature of Carl’s works on this recording is a general sense of suspended time, which from a musical standpoint results from temporal frameworks that are not based on a pulse or governed by regular metric divisions. Instead, within clearly demarcated structures, individual musical gestures are propelled by a different passage of time, one that might be better understood in relation to physiological patterns (such as the heartbeat or the breath) or psychological markers of time (such as the rate of changing thoughts or moods).
“My goal,” Carl explains, “is to provide the listener with a sense of amplitude, a sort of ‘opening up’ of the ear and spirit that suggest a place where one can breathe more deeply, sense a broader expanse in which one can listen, and resonate in tune with what one hears.”