This suite, commissioned by guitarist Giacomo Fiore and performed by him here, is based on the last scene (“Horikawa Mansion”) of Act 1 of Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura (“Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees”), one of the best-known plays in the Kabuki repertoire. Three of the pieces are portraits of characters in the play: the protagonist Yoshitsune's mistress Shizuka, his wife Kyō no Kimi and his loyal retainer Benkei. These are bracketed by an “overture” and curtain music.
Composer Kenji Oh compares the process of composing these miniatures to the painting of scrolls illustrating scenes and characters from Kabuki plays, as practiced by the artists working in the ukiyo-e style that flourished during Japan's Edo period.
The guitar is retuned and prepared with a rubber band, paper clips and a strip of paper to produce sawari, a buzzing timbre characteristic of traditional Japanese stringed instruments. The performer also whistles in two of the movements, evoking the sound of the nohkan (bamboo flute).
We commissioned artist Shari Arai DeBoer to create the accompanying artwork for this digital-only release. Her sublime watercolored linocuts were laid out as an accordion book by designer Mary Kunimune. The book was printed in a limited edition of 100 and bound at Cardoza-James Binding in San Francisco.