Monday, November 21, 2005

Fumio Yasuda's erotic improvisations


Fumio Yasuda's album 'Flower Songs' is a fusion of the visual and performing arts. It is one of the fruits (or should that be flowers?) of a long term collabaration between composer and pianist Yasuda and leading Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, and was originally composed as a soundtrack for Araki's film 'Kakyoku', which translates as 'Flower Songs.'

Improvisation is a staple ingredient of Fumio Yasuda's music-making. He was born in Tokyo in 1953, and studied composition at Kunitachi College of Music. Yasuda's music occupies that increasingly important grey area between contemporary classical and jazz compositions. He plays keyboards himself, uses sampling, and has worked with several leading improvisers in Japan. Although experimental his work retains roots in the post-Romantic musical tradition, and pays homage to impressionists such as Debussy. Piano and keyboards are his main interests, but his compositions range from an Accordion Concerto (1994), through several choral works including his Epitaph 1939 composed in 2003, to his improvised cabaret opera 'Der Kastanieball' which was first performed at the Munich Opera Festival in 2004.

Fumio Yasuda has enjoyed a long association with innovatory German record label Winter & Winter. Kakyoku - Flower Songs which was released in 2000 is a good starting point to explore his music. The CD packaging uses stunning images from his collabarator, the photographer Nobuyoshi Araki . Araki is a high profile and very controversial figure in the Japanese visual arts. He has published more than 350 books and is best known for his pornographic photographs. He has been widely attacked by feminist groups, and has been arrested several times for breaking Japanese pornography laws, but has never been prosecuted. Before readers rush over to Amazon to order Kakyoku for its pornographic graphics they should note that the brilliant images on the packaging are all close-ups of flowers. However like good improvisation they can be interpreted many ways depending on the perspective of the viewer - as can the two photos by Araki accompanying this article.

'Kakyoku - Flower Songs' features Yasuda on piano, melodica and sampler and Ernst Reijseger on cello, with the European Art Orchestra which is an off-shoot of the Stuttgater Kammerorchester dedicated to exploring the boundaries between contemporary, jazz and world music. Kakyoku is an accessible post-romantic score with a debt to John Adams, but it certainly doesn't push the envelope as far as Nobuyoshi Araki's photographs - which is probably a good thing.

Here are three samples of Yasuda's erotic improvisations:
Death Sentiment IV -
Tari -
Tango for November -

An exhibition of Araki's photographs is at the Barbican Art Gallery, London until 22nd January 2006
Kakyoku is released on Winter & Winter 910051 - 2
Picture credits:
Header and Japanese script -
Fumioyasuda.com
Footer - Sensual Flower by Nobuyoshi Araki from
Studium.iar
Nobuyoshi Araki's own
web site comes with a mild health warning because of some of the content, which is guaranteed to generate some hits I guess.
Audio clips - Amazon.de

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Improvisation

1 comment:

Pliable said...

Amusing case study in artistic judgements here.

I also blog over at the excellent contemporary music site Sequenza21. As I am a guest there I post shorter and 'safer' variations of my articles, I take the risks at home!

Jeff Harrington also recycles my pieces over at New Music reBlog. Usually he takes the 'safe' version of my stories from Sequenza21, but this time he chose the 'erotic' version - interesting....