MusicSafari 14: The Way of The Flower (Review)

THE WAY OF THE FLOWER

Primrose Potter Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre
27 February 2019

Review by Le Tuan Hung

The Way of The Flower featured a program of contemporary works for shakuhachi and koto. The concert opened and ended with two well-known 20th century compositions by Sawai Tadao: Flying Like a Bird (1985) and Song of the Waxing Moon (1979). Brandon Lee’s performance of Flying Like A Bird delivered a captivating experience: The sounds, the noises, the tone colours and the varied dynamics from the koto impressed listeners with an exquisite floating soundscape in the air.

After the opening piece, the program moved away from the Japanese heartland of the instruments to feature four 21st century works by non-Japanese composers: Rain Now and Then(2011) for shakuhachi solo, Far Below Me(2015/2019) for shakuhachi, spoken word, and bass koto, and Moon in Water (2018/2019) for shakuhachi and voice by Australian composer-performer Anne Norman, and I Thought About Eva (2018) for shakuhachi and koto by French composer Henri Algadafe.

Anne Norman performed her three original compositions with utmost mastery. Rain Now and Then showed a stream of beautiful melodies. Far Below Me incorporated alternating sections of spoken words and shakuhachi, supported by the deep and mellow sounds of the bass koto. In Moon in Water, the technique of incorporating voice while blowing the shakuhachi created a mesmerising experience: the voice within the music and the music within the voice. In both Far below Meand Moon in Water, the spoken or sung poetry brought an extra-dimension to the musical experience.

Henri Algadafe’s work with contrasting sections grown from five occurrences of a short motif provided an opportunity for both the shakuhachi and the koto to deliver brief but musically meaningful gestures interacting with each other to bring about a thoughtful outcome.

The program ended with Tadao’s Song of the Waxing Moon(1979) which was presented simultaneously with an ikebana demonstration by Shoso Shimbo. The juxtaposition of two elements made Tadao’s work the background music for the ikebana session. While one could appreciate the ikebana process in the musical atmosphere, it is more desirable for the audience to have the opportunity to listen to the musical work by itself as a way to honour Sawai Tadao. As most members of the audience had already seated 15-20 minutes before the concert, the ikebana session could have started then in silence. The sound of the scissors, the breaking of the branches and the footsteps of the ikebana master are the music of the flowers in itself.

For information about the artists and their works, please visit their websites:

Anne Norman

Brandon Lee

Shoso Shimbo