Japan Relief Recital

Japan Relief Recital
Friday, May 20, 2011 7:30pm
Cypress Recital Hall, California State Northridge
1811 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330
Call 818-677-3181 for more info

With all the recent news of floods, tornadoes, birth certificates and terrorists it’s easy to forget that half a world away there was an incredible tragedy that happened recently, an earthquake and tsunami that continues to make life difficult for tens of thousands of people in Northern Japan.  There are shockwaves, literal and figurative, that contine to reverberate across the country.  Just today there was a report from BBC that Japan has slid back into an economic recession as a direct result from the earthquake.

The unimaginable horror of watching so many houses, cars, boats, and people be washed away like they were little toys is something that I don’t think anyone can properly process.  It looks like it can’t be real, like it’s just another scene in the latest disaster film.  Coupled with the short attention span of the daily news cycle is enough to obscure the true magnitude of the amount of human suffering that continues even now.

It goes without saying that as a Japanese American I have more than a trivial interest in what is going on in Japan regarding the earthquake, and of course having the same name as the damaged nuclear reactor makes it rather hard to ignore the news.  That’s why it has been gnawing at my soul to do something to help the situation over there.  When someone approached me about playing for a student-led fundraiser for Japan, I quickly agreed.

The event will take place this Friday at 7:30pm, in the music recital hall on campus at CalState Northridge, where I teach jazz piano.  There will be a number of very talented students performing, and I am honored that they asked me to play as well.  I am bringing Miles and JP along to play with me, and for that I am truly grateful to them for donating their time.

One of the pieces we will be playing is an older Japanese melody by 19th century composer Rentaro Taki, entitled “Kojo no Tsuki” or “Moon Over the Ruined Castle”.  It was written in homage to the ruins of Oka Castle in southern Japan, but later lyrics were added by Bansui Doi, who was from Sendai, which is in the north.  He wrote his lyrics in honor of the ruins at Aoba Castle in Sendai and Aizuwakamatsu Castle in Fukushima.  It is a fateful irony that Sendai and Fukushima were the regions hit hardest by the 2011 Tsunami.

Flowery feast in spring high up in the castle
Cups were passed around with moonlight reflected on the surface of sake
The moonlight shined through the old pine branches
Where is that old moonlight now?

Encampment in autumn was white covered with frost
A number of geese honked as they flew across the sky
The moonlight shined on the swords thrusted upright into the ground
Where is that old moonlight now?

Now at midnight the moon is right above
For whom does it shine like in the past?
Nothing remains on the rampart but some ivy
Nothing to hear but the rustle of pine branches in the storm

Up in the sky the moon and the stars remain unchanged
But in the earthly life, rises and falls come and go
Does the moon hang there to reflect those changes?
Ah! the midnight moon over the ruined castle

I first recorded this song a decade ago with vocalist Ben Black for his beautiful album remembered faces/private places.  Thelonious Monk of all musicians has an interesting version as well, which you can listen to here.  My arrangement is also Monk-inspired, but my main source of inspiration will be the tens of thousands of people in Sendai, Fukushima, Otsuchi, Ishinomaki, and all the other places so profoundly devastated by the waves.

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