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Karen Tanaka at the Academy Awards

Karen Tanaka's hauntingly beautiful score sets a reflective and playful tone for the short animation Sister, which was recently nominated for the 92nd Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Tanaka's score, which combines the simplicity of solo piano with electronics, is one of several scores by female composers to be recognized by the Academy in the 2020 season; as Variety notes, this is a new record for the Oscars. 

Tanaka has also recently composed a new commission for the Left Coast Chamber EnsembleWind Wisperer, which was premeired in October, 2019. Written for the same instrumental ensemble as Debussy's Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, which also appeared on the program, Tanaka's Wind Wisperer echoes Debussy's harmonic innovations while expanding its own exploration of time and timelessness. Tanaka draws inspiration from the Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi, whose work inspired her to create an "out-of-time" experience while listening to the piece, suspended in harmonic animation by the harp; the melodic figurations of the flute produce almost improvisational gestures, playing within suspended harmonic fields. 

Tanaka's choral work Sleep Deeply—available in arrangements for mezzo-soprano/two tenors/baritone, SATB, and TTBB chorus—was also recently performed by the Irish vocal ensemble ANÚNA in Belgium. This work, commissioned in 2018 by the Louth Contemporary Music Society in Ireland, sets lyrics by ANÚNA's Artistic Director Michael McGlynn, based on medieval Irish Poetry. 

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