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Satoko Fujii — Piano Music
(Libra no#, 2021, CD / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-01-22

Piano Music Cover art

With Piano Music, Satoko Fujii explores yet another aspect of her primary instrument. Self-described as “a very analog piano player,” she has ventured outside her previous areas of composition and improvisation into a new digital realm. Using a piano in unconventional ways is nothing new to her, of course, as she has recorded pieces on prepared piano as well as unadorned piano played in unconventional ways — but it was always played live. For this release, she recorded a multitude of sound fragments at home involving virtually every trick she could imagine, then assembled those snippets “like building with Legos” into the two tracks on the album. “Shiroku” runs 19 minutes, starting with a clear drone sprinkled with hammer-dulcimer-like bits. Random other sounds punctuate the passage of time as the ambient droning notes slowly shift tonality, including echoing whale-like noises. If you’re so inclined, you can try to imagine just what Fujii did to the piano to create these sounds, but it’s probably best to just treat them as pure sonic artifacts and feel the moods they evoke, which might be something like searching through fog for a path forward — not in a fearful or anxious way, as there’s a sense of calmness that pervades the piece. In the last couple minutes, the sonic density builds up and even includes some notes that seem to have been produced using the keyboard to sound them. The second track is called “Fuwarito” (which I think translates as “Softly” or “Lightly”) and runs 27 minutes. This piece starts out on a higher intensity level, though it’s not really cacophonous. The dulcimer-like tremolos are accompanied by massive scrapes and flurries of clicking, sounding like several kittens knocking marbles around inside the piano on top of the strings. Muffled timpani-like sounds wander around, and chaotic splashes on dampened upper keys flicker like a strobe light aimed at a mirror ball. A listener used to Beethoven or Mozart might say that Piano Music isn’t really music, or even really a piano, but it fits into a tradition that goes back to Varèse, Stockhausen, and others, though produced with modern digital techniques. It is an assembly of sound that exists only in the recorded space and can never be performed, but that’s a type of music that has existed for many decades now. It is an abstract journey in sound that is well worth exploring.

Filed under: New releases, 2021 releases

Related artist(s): Satoko Fujii

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