Polaritäten (1973)

Basic Information
Japanese ポラリテーテン
German Polaritäten
Opus 022
Year 1973
Category Orchestra/Concerto
Duration 23 min.
Instruments Vers. I: biwa, hp, orch; Vers. II: shaku, fl, orch; Vers. III: biwa, hp, shaku, fl, orch
Score information
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About this Work

I gave the work this title on account of the presence throughout it of several poles or polarities.

The poles to which I refer here are those represented by the musical approaches of "Western music" and of "Japanese traditional music", that is to say the concentrated concepts underlying these two musical cultures. However, these two approaches encounter one another and clash in the same space and time continuum. In this work, I aimed to use this encounter or clash to create a third approach which would become manifest in a new world of sound.

The full score specifies that the soloists should abide rigorously by the musical time (rhythm) indicated in the parts which they are allocated. It is thus written so that several independent polarities are created. But, at the same time, the soloists are required to perform as if constantly chafing against the other soloists and the orchestral musicians in a complex relationship of interdependence. Two-way communication is a common feature of performance of Japanese traditional music, particularly genres such as Gagaku and Noh. The present work is an application of this mode of performance. This implies that the soloists - performers of instruments used in Eastern and Western music such as biwa, harp, shakuhachi, and flute – should rub and react against one another's performance or be intoxicated with it, thereby creating new relationships from out of the encounter between one's own sound world and that of others, and giving rise to a third sonic world.

The work was first performed at the Berlin Philharmonie in October 1973 by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Seiji Ozawa, with the soloists Kinshi Tsuruta, Ayako Shinozaki, Katsuya Yokoyama, and James Galway. lt was commissioned by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Cologne.

Maki Ishii