Expressions (1967)

Basic Information
Japanese エクスプレシオーネン
German Expressionen
Opus 010
Year 1967
Category Orchestra/Concerto
Duration 12 min. 30 sec.
Instruments str-orch
Score information
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About this Work

Maki Ishii, 1990 (transl.: Christopher Drake). Source: CD "Works by Maki Ishii I", Fontec FOCD3110

As can be seen from the opus number, "Expressionen für Streichorchester," for a fifty-piece string orchestra with four soloists (Vl.I, Vl.II, Va, Vc.), was composed in the late 1960s. It was my first experience composing for anything on the scale of a string ensemble, and it prepared the way for even larger-scale later compositions such as Kyō-Ō and Kyō-sō.

Stylistically, it incorporates the so-called "avant-garde" techniques of the 1960s. Sounds are broken down into their component parts, and execution is complex, requiring many special performance techniques. Looking back now, however, I can see that this work contains the germs of many sound elements which appear in my later works. For example, the faint, extremely small sounds in the opening section and the Col Legno sounds (produced by playing on the wooden part of the bow) that flicker extremely softly there are part of a sound space that was clearly inspired by shōmyō Buddhist song ceremonies which I experienced. Here also can be found the "composite" character of the rhythms pervading my later works, with their mixture of the metronomic and the indeterminate. I also feel the existence, in the second half of the work, of shōmyō-like "sound surges" which set the work apart from other avant-garde works from the same period. It may well be my first work to confront and consciously deal with the differences between Eastern and Western music.

The work was first performed for broadcast on the Japan Broadcasting System (NHK) in 1967 by the Yomiuri Japanese Symphonic Orchestra conducted by Hiroshi Wakasugi. The first stage performance was in 1968 by the same orchestra conducted by Kazuyoshi Akiyama.