Improvised Music from Japan / Tetsu Saitoh

Liner Notes of the CD Invitation

written by Tetsu Saitoh

About the Songs

I selected these pieces mainly from my solo tour repertoire. Numbers 1 to 7 are my original works, and 8 to 11 are some favorite songs which I often played as encores. When I play in a small venue, I have a strong sense that I am creating the music along with everyone present. I feel that my performances have developed in this way as a result of feedback from many people.

  1. King Lear fukkatsu no theme (Theme from "Lear's Reawakening") (Tetsu Saitoh)
    In my collaboration with the theater group TAO, over a five-year period we performed King Lear in three parts, the third part being "Lear's Reawakening." Every night I played this habanera with the Kazue Sawai Koto Ensemble, pianist Fumio Itabashi and others, to bring onto the stage the actor who played Lear, Takeshi Wakamatsu. Mr. Wakamatsu recently recovered from a serious illness, and I played this piece to celebrate his return to the stage.

  2. Tsuki no Tsubo (Moon Pot) (Tetsu Saitoh)
    This is quite an old work. Someone at an art museum thought of the name. I have played it at the Eurasian Echoes concerts, formed a group of the same name, and used it as the music for various dances. It is a song full of memories.

  3. Kaze no Michi (The Wind Route) (Tetsu Saitoh) / Tristeza e Solidao (Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes)
    Inspired by the image of the wind's route from Africa to South America, I played the bass as a percussion instrument in various ways. I attached wind chimes to the pegs, "prepared" the bass by placing koto string supports under the strings, played with two bows at a time, and so on. The final melody is from "Afro Sambas."

  4. Cyclo (Tetsu Saitoh)
    When I composed this piece for a production of the Greek tragedy La Danaide, I was thinking of musical styles like choro, musette, and jinta. The music was used in a strange and joyful scene in which a crowd of pregnant women are marching. The Latin feeling that I love comes out strongly in this performance.

  5. Invitation (Tetsu Saitoh)
    This was created for a production of Federico Garcia Lorca's play Black Pudding. The play was to be performed on the site of castle ruins in ...mura, Okinawa, and an elementary school boys' chorus was to sing the music; but the production was canceled unexpectedly. I performed the piece in a duo with Barre Phillips on my second CD, Saiten, and he thought of the name. I used an odd tuning technique while playing.

  6. Tsuru (Crane) (Tetsu Saitoh)
    The Korean koto has evolved in many directions, and today there remain three commonly used types: kayagum, ajaeng, and komungo. These instruments have a big vibrato, and the sound is extremely affecting. I imagined this kind of sound as I played. I held an Indonesian percussion instrument in my left hand and used it like a guitar bottleneck, passing it across the strings.

  7. Edgar no Nichijo (A Day in the Life of Edgar) (Tetsu Saitoh)
    A composition for King Lear, used in a scene where Lear wanders around dressed in rags. The actor playing Lear was directed to act out a person's daily routine (waking, washing, eating, going to the toilet, working, having sex, sleeping, etc.) over and over again. I felt in my bones that this was a blues scene. This is the first original blues composition I ever wrote.

  8. 69Q (Anthony Braxton)
    All of Braxton's fascinating compositions are designed to stimulate the imagination. Even with this brief six-bar piece, once you start playing you can go in various directions and have a variety of experiences.

  9. Alfonsina y el Mar (Ariel Ramirez)
    This is a song from "Mujeres Argentinas," sung by Mercedes Sosa. A masterpiece of Argentine samba, the song is about the powerful poet Alfonsina Storni. As I play it, I think about the many women who lead strong, active lives.

  10. Teresa (Indonesian folk song)
    This was sung by Teresa Teng in the film Love Song. During the mastering, it was pointed out that the combination of low-pitch pizzicato and high-pitch harmonics sounded like a conversation between a man and a woman--although this was not intentional.

  11. Ne me quitte pas (Jacques Brel)
    I feel that, among the many chanson singers, Jacques Brel is unique. More than merely singing with feeling, he seems to pour his guts out when he sings, making you feel that if he doesn't do this, he can't survive. He conveys the same kind of emotion that Elis Regina does. Someday I would like to have this power of expression.

There is no overdubbing on this recording. The bass strings are Olive (G and D) and Chorda (A and E). All are gut strings.