Archive for April, 2012

An Old Track but New Video

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Recently I was inspired to dig through some orphaned tracks and have decided to post a few. We do a lot of experimenting when it comes to song writing and end up having a lot of different tracks that don’t quite fit into the On Ensemble sound for one reason or another. As a composer one thing I’ve always tried to do is to challenge myself to do the thing I’m least comfortable doing when it comes to making music. When I first started off I was just intimidated to finish a song so I would force myself to finish pieces and present them to whatever group I was in. Then it was writing pieces in non 4/4 time, then it was writing melodies and then harmonies and now it’s writing lyrics. Some of these explorations get turned into On Ensemble material some of them get spun into other projects then there are some that kind of fall between the cracks. This track is one of those tracks. It’s a free jazz inspired piece based on a 13/8 groove. For a while I got all inspired to write songs in 13 after we had done a collaborative piece with Patrick Graham based on different patterns in 13. Before that it was pieces in 5 and now I just want to write things in 7. I don’t really know how 13 snuck in there in-between the 5 and current 7 obsessions. Anyhow I original wrote this as a piece that we could play with Russel Baba and he’s featured on Saxophone along with Kaoru Watanabe on fue. This is a live recording from the first and currently only time we’ve performed this track. I’m thinking of featuring it on our next album but we’ll see how it all works out. The pictures during a sunrise at Borobudur taken during my Indonesian Arts Education fellowship in central Java. Enjoy!

Mark Miyoshi odaiko stand review

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

A little while back I commissioned an odaiko stand from master-drum-maker, Mark Miyoshi. The stand has arrived… and it’s everything I wanted!

Sexy close-up photos after the break.


Lighted batchi path at various tempos

Monday, April 16th, 2012

I was curious how the shape of my batchi path changes as I play faster. Here are a few images showing the difference between 30bpm, 60bpm, and 120bpm.

The first image is my right hand playing at 30bpm. The faint blue lines next to my head are the path of the batchi tip as I strike toward the drum. The batchi rebounds off the drum and is then reset into alignment with the arm at the beginning of the pull-up. This reset causes the “kink”, a short, horizontal path of the batchi tip before it raises up for the next strike. By 60bpm (the second image), the arm is moving quickly enough that the bounce of the batchi is smoothly incorporated into the pull-up.

As the tempo increases, the height and width of the loops decreases. More specifically, the exaggerated path of the pull-up nears the path of the strike. (And when playing shime-daiko at even faster speeds, the pull-up path and the strike path are essentially the same.) Note that in all three images the arc just before striking the drum is essentially the same. Interesting!

ETC lighted batchi fun

Monday, April 16th, 2012

After a long day of Eastern Taiko Conference workshops and taiko fun a few of us returned to the dorm to find all the doors locked. With some time to kill and my workshop materials on hand, we made some silly lighted batchi images. Cheryl arrived just in time for a cameo!

ETC lighted batchi experiments

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Basic strike experiments continue with the lighted batchi. Here is a series of images from a workshop I taught at Eastern Taiko Conference. The series shows each player’s right and left hand strikes at a slow tempo on betta (upright). I am at the top of the series and the workshop participants follow.

Although it’s hard to draw firm conclusions from this limited sample size, the path of the batchi seems to be somewhat different for most players’ right and left hands. The left hand also appears less consistent for most players.

I am gradually developing a sense of these shapes and can deduce from them certain strike tendencies. In this series of images, the elongated shape of player three’s strikes, for example, indicates she is using less elbow bend than average. Player four is letting the batchi bounce off the drum more than player five, for example. However, I have not yet found the ideal application for the lighted batchi in my practice or teaching. In most cases, a mirror provides much of the same information in a more immediate form. If nothing else, the lighted batchi focus attention on the path of the tip of the batchi and provide a new way to conceptualize the basic strike.

I will continue searching… If there is an experiment with lighted batchi that you would like to see, please let me know!

(click image for larger version)

Recent book reviews — April 2012

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012


Eastern Taiko Conference wrap-up

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Eastern Taiko Conference

On Ensemble returned from a great weekend at the 2nd Annual Eastern Taiko Conference. It was quite a busy weekend. On Thursday I (Shoji) flew into New York and performed that night with Kaoru Watanabe and Patrick Graham at Zebulan. It was a great way to start the weekend. We performed an all improvised set and it’s always great to perform with musicians like Kaoru and Patrick. The next day we drove to Wesleyan and met up with Maz and Kris who were on tour with Taikoproject. The three of us spent the weekend leading workshops and getting a sense of the East Coast taiko community. Through our tours we’ve met quite a few of the East Coast groups but it’s still surprising how quickly groups are springing up.

On Saturday we performed a great concert with Kaoru Watanabe, Patrick Graham, Kenny Endo, Miles Endo, Isaku Kageyama and TAIKOPROJECT. In the first half we played an integrated set with Kenny, Kaoru and Patrick based on our ongoing TAIKO 2.0 collaboration. Isaku and Miles joined in for a couple of pieces and really added to the mix. In the second half Maz and Kris switched costumes and took the stage as TAIKOPROJECT. I joined them to perform “Omiyage” then Kenny led a rousing 8 person version of “Symmetrical Soundscapes” to end the concert. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some video of the concert soon in the meantime enjoy these photos from Ben Pachter’s flickr account.

All in all it was a great weekend of taiko. A huge thank you goes out to Cheryl Tan and the organizers of the 2nd annual Eastern Taiko Conference who did a great job organizing the conference. At each one of these taiko gatherings there are a ton of behind the scenes people who helped make all this happen. Stuart Paton and Burlington Taiko were carting drums around everywhere, David Cheetham came all the way from Vegas and was a life saver producing the concert, there were helpful volunteers everywhere and somebody made hundreds of warm musubi to greet the participants as they arrived. As a workshop leader and performer we have the easy job just show up teach a workshop and play but the real props should go to all the organizers and volunteers who make these events possible.

Up Next: In2In Thinking and El Camino College

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Later in April we’ll be performing at the In2In Thinking conference on April 21st. In May we’ll be performing a full concert at El Camino College in Torrance, CA. We’re looking forward to the El Camino College concert as it has been a little while since we’ve presented a full length concert in the Los Angeles area. Here are the details:

On Ensemble in Concert at El Camino College
Saturday, May 12, 8:00pm

Tickets: $26
Order online:
Marsee Auditorium
El Camino College
Torrance, CA

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