August 8: James Miglia

Performing: Mai by Ryo Noda & For the Fallen by Judith Shatin

Paired with Artwork: Flying Calabash by Talle Bamazi

Musician statement: Talle Bamazi’s Flying Calabash intersects today’s musical offerings through the representation of spiritual vessels.  Disadvantaged peoples around the world use calabash gourds as vessels to store, prepare and serve food.  To my eye, Bamazi has elevated this humble bowl to a holy vessel, represented by its supernatural ability to fly.  In Mai, the spiritual vessel is General Taira’s body, emptied for his ill-fated crew.  The spiritual vessel in For the Fallen is the Italian bell that rings daily as a prayerful remembrance.  All three pieces recall giving and sacrifice, the blessing of life, ceremonial holiness, and the spiritual elevation of the flesh.

About the music:

Mai (1978) – Ryo Noda (b. 1948)

Mai is a musical setting of a poem from Git de Heike, a book chronicling the history of the Tairan warrior clan of 13th century Japan.  The poem tells the story of General Kiyotsun Taira, who chooses an honorable death by suicide before a doomed maritime conflict to spare the lives of his navy.  The music follows the story:

At dusk of an Autumn evening,
As the moon reflects its silver light on the surface of the waves,
General Kiyotsun Taira plays his flute.

Standing at the bow of his ship, 
He seizes his dagger and slices a braid(knot) from his head,
Places it by his feet,
And disappears into the sea.

At the threshold of his house,
The ghost of the Samurai appears.
Confronting him his wife asks:
“Why did you leave?”
“To save my army”, he answered…“Because I knew in advance that the battle was lost, and thus, I saved the lives of my men and their families”.
“And me”, she said, “Did you think of me”?  

Ryo Noda, born in Amagasaki (Japan) in 1948, has been hailed throughout the Western hemisphere for his perfect control, powerful avant-garde improvisations and innovative playing techniques. While he is a leading exponent of new Japanese music for the saxophone, his repertoire also includes Western music of the baroque, classical and romantic periods. Noda graduated from the Osaka College of Music as a saxophonist. He pursued advanced music studies at Northwestern University (Illinois) under Fred L. Hemke and at the Bordeaux Conservatory under Jean-Marie Londeix. He was twice awarded the Osaka City Art Festival Prize and, in 1986, won the Osaka Prefecture Old Award; he also received the Grand Prix of the Yamaha Electone Festival in 1989. Noda’s work as a composer was recognized in 1973 when he was awarded the SACEM Composition Prize.  

For the Fallen (2015) – Judith Shatin (b. 1949)

For the Fallen, for amplified soprano saxophone and electronics, is a recasting of the original version for amplified trumpet and electronics, commissioned by Italian trumpeter, Ivano Ascari, who premiered it at the Mondi Sonori, XV Edizione in Trento, Italy, and subsequently recorded it on his CD, A Hundred Years (1914-2014), on the occasion of the centennial of World War I.  For the Fallen was inspired by, and the electronics created from, the Campana dei Caduti bell in Rovereto, Italy.  Originally cast from cannons melted after WWI, this bell is one of the largest ringing bells in the world.  Built between 1918 and 1925, to commemorate the fallen in all wars, it is rung 100 times every day at sunset.  While political situations change in their particulars, the topic remains all too timely.  The original recordings of the bell were provided by sound engineer, Marco Olivotto.

Composer Judith Shatin is renowned for her richly imagined acoustic, electroacoustic and digital music.  She draws on expanded instrumental palettes and a cornucopia of the sounding world, from machines in a coal mine to the calls of animals, the shuttle of a wooden loom, the pull of a zipper. Her music seamlessly spans the acoustic and digital realms, and often combines the two.

Shatin’s music has been honored with four National Endowment for the Arts Composer Fellowships as well as grants from the American Music Center, Meet the Composer and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.  Her music has been recorded on Centaur, Innova (two portrait discs), Navona, Neuma, New World Records, Ravello and Sonora.  Dr. Shatin is also recognized as a master teacher, a reputation that has earned her artist residency placements around the world.

Beyond her contributions as a composer, Shatin is a strong advocate for her fellow composers. She served as President of American Composers (1989-93), was for two terms a board member of the League/ISCM in New York, serves on the board of the National Council of the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and has also served on the board of the American Composers Alliances. She is currently a member of the Fellows Council of the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the advisory board of the International Alliance for Women in Music.

James Miglia is a saxophonist, teacher, and composer/arranger based in Columbus, Ohio.  His current chamber music projects include the Cosa Nostra Reed Quintet, which he formed in 2017, and the Black Swamp Saxophone Quartet, which he joined in 1995.  Jay is “on the call list” for all the orchestras of classical or jazz music in Ohio, and currently teaches at Otterbein University.