Kris' Blog - the world according to a vegan, skateboarding, taiko nut

Up next: Japan and UK Taiko Festival

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

I’m extremely excited about an upcoming trip to Japan for shamisen lessons and England to teach and perform at the UK Taiko Festival!

Shima no Senzai
Last year I mentioned to my shamisen teacher, Kineya Katsuyukie, that I’d like to learn the tsuzumi/shamisen duet piece, Shima no Senzai, with the hopes one day of playing it with Kenny Endo. Katsuyukie Sensei has arranged a lesson for me with the great tsuzumi player, Katada Shinjyuro, and a singer from Hakodate, Nachi-san. This is going to be scary and fun!

In one of my workshops I’ll be debuting a new composition! I need to get a lot better before the grooves feel really good but I think it has potential. Here’s a sample!

Radiddlepa sample, work in progress from Kristofer Bergstrom on Vimeo.

Jack Bazaar and collaborations with Kagemusha and Mizuho Zako
I’ll be performing Jack Bazaar with Oliver Kirby on jiuchi, sitting in on one of Kagemusha’s pieces, Kindred Spirit, and trying to pull together a short bon-taiko collaboration with Mizuho Zako (Oedo Sukeroku Daiko). It will be an honor to work with these wonderful people!

Recent book reviews — April 2014

Saturday, April 12th, 2014


Toward a Sustainable Taiko Career

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014



For the last six months I have been contemplating my carbon footprint and how touring as an artist produces more than my fair share of CO2. I sketched out a long-term plan, talked to everyone I know, read books on the subject, took online classes, and thought and thought about it. The result is a 10-year CO2-reduction plan. It will eventually change how often I can travel by air with On Ensemble but I hope that with creativity and hard work, I can minimize the negative impact and maximize the benefits.

The essay above explains the project. I welcome any feedback, especially challenges to the reasoning behind the plan.

Jack Bazaar new Duet intro

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Maz and I have been working on some new two-person stuff for the Duet intro of Jack Bazaar. It’s all silly stuff but it’s been a really fun challenge and working with Maz is the best. We had a great practice yesterday in preparation for a gig in Sylmar next week. Hopefully we’ll have a non-bachi-dropping video of the Duet in the not-too-distant future!

Jack Bazaar with revised Duet beginning from Kristofer Bergstrom on Vimeo.

Nidan-inspired work in progress

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Jason Osajima and I spent a few weeks working on some new two-drum ideas for On Ensemble’s Works In Progress concert. Here’s the result!

Nidan Uchi-inspired work in progress from Kristofer Bergstrom on Vimeo.

We’re off to see the wedding… the wonderful wedding of Maz!

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

I’m so excited about this weekend celebrating Maz and Courtney! They have succeeded in designing the perfect event, even for an anti-event homebody like me.

You see, I generally do not dress up, and this is a problem for wedding attendance. I am a fan of the humble t-shirt, the most egalitarian of clothing items. So when Maz indicated gently that this wedding would not be a come-as-you-are affair, and subsequently rejected my proposal to wear a bridesmaid’s dress, I was disconcerted. Nothing I own would suffice. Well, leave it to Maz…

Maz has rented the groomsmen tuxedos. Yes, Shoji and I will be wearing tuxedos. And not only did Maz arrange the whole thing, but he will personally deliver the tuxedos to the dressing room. Even at his own wedding, Maz makes others feel like the star.

Generally speaking, one’s attire connotes one’s sense of the significance of an event. Without this form of expression at my disposal, I have resorted to the measure, “distance-biked-to-be-here”. So I am excited to make my first long-distance ride on my new bike for the wedding, and my longest, single-day distance yet. Here again, Maz has revealed his considerate nature by choosing a delightful venue, precisely 70mi from my apartment. I would have happily ridden farther, but appreciate the gesture.

And so it is with happy thoughts of soon seeing Maz and Courtney and family and friends that I depart! Aliso Viejo, here we come!


Recent book reviews — March 2014

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014


Sugamen work in progress

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

For the last year or so, Yuta and I have been working on an approach to playing fast rhythms as a duo. One person plays the downbeats and the other the upbeats, a technique called “sugagaki” in the shamisen world. For On Ensemble’s Works in Progress concert, we took the most successful rhythms thus far (two-person oroshi and drum-and-bass’ Amen break in two voicings) and slapped them together for a short demo we’re calling Sugamen.

Sugamen work in progress

I think the technique has lots of exciting potential. Since each person is only doing half the work, two players together can create impossibly fast, powerful strikes. Once you reach about 1000 hits-per-minute, the sound becomes a blur of power. I’m sure there are applications to odaiko and two-person naname and nidan, and multi-taiko set as well. We’ll continue to search for musical applications that benefit from the new-found range (hopefully without devolving into a non-musical skill-fest).

In addition to the musical uses, Yuta and I have felt an improvement in our ability to play complicated, syncopated rhythms and keep constant time. The hours of metronome practice and new way of feeling the pulse are likely helping. We’ve had a great time teaching the sugagaki method to participants of last month’s LATI’s Valentine’s Intensive too.

If you have ideas for how we might use sugagaki, or want to start practicing too*, let us know!

* The first 6 months of practice, for example, can be accomplished playing with an audio recording of the second-person part. Contact me for details.

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