AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Gaspar Claus – Jo Ha Kyu

MOONZ_fiume_gaspartokyo03 (Photo credit: vincentmoon)

Gaspar Claus: Jo Ha Kyu [Important Records imprec378 ]

This CD features French cellist Gaspar Claus and an ensemble of ten Japanese experimental and traditional musicians exploring the contemporary implications of the traditional Japanese aesthetic principles of jo-ha-kyu. Tracing back to gagaku court music, jo-ha-kyu—often translated as exposition-development-climax–is a way of organizing a performance or other work of art by means of a tripartite formal structure embodying an accelerating pace and tension.

The long title track shows how this traditional scheme could work in the context of improvised music. The piece begins with sparse plucked notes on the cello which quickly give way to electronic chirps and the subtle murmurings of a kind of electronic background surf, from which piano and cello occasionally emerge. This part of the piece has the even-toned feel that traditionally is part of the jo or exposition. The notes of the biwa, a Japanese lute, break through nearly one third of the way in, introducing a voice, while the background coalesces into a pulsing drone—a kind of permeable monolith. This shift in tone would seem to indicate the ha, or development and quickening. The piece then turns into a minor-key lament for voice and acoustic guitar with an undergirding of cello arpeggios that develops further with the sounds of electronics and electric cello. The third section or kyu is signaled by a taiko drum; the piece then builds into a thickly intense play of everything at once, accelerating and then culminating in white noise.

Includes the two bonus tracks First Contact #4, featuring Hiromishi Sakamoto, and First Contact #5, featuring Otomo Yoshihide.