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Posts tagged 'Karen Tanaka'

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. 

Contemporary Piano Video Library features Lei Liang's "Garden Eight"

Lei Liang's Garden Eight, for solo piano, has recently been featured as part of pianist Ricardo Descalzo's Contemporary Piano Video Library, a project that spotlights contemporary piano repertoire with video recorded performances and commentary. In his feature on Garden Eight, Descalzo writes, 

This is a collection of eight short pieces that are not intended to evolve from one to another. Rather, they are like different views of the same landscape. [Quoting Liang:] ”These pieces are musical gardens. To perform one of them is to walk through a garden of sounds… ”

Liang composed his Garden Eight, originally for any solo instrument, using only six pitches and six relative durations (and dedicated to a friend whom Liang had seen six times before composing the work). The work is part of Liang's larger "Garden" series (including Garden Six for saxophone sextet, and Garden Nine for singers, piano and rocks), which serves as a tribute to the Ming Dynasty Yuen Yeh (the earliest and most exquisite Chinese horticultural treatise). Liang writes that "gardens, in this discourse, are not treated as a confined enclosure, but as an extended environment. A Chinese garden is a visual world as well as a world of other senses."

(Garden Six, performed by New England Conservatory Saxophone Ensemble)

Descalzo's performance and video documentary delicately captures this essential quality in Garden Eight. Check out the film, above, and visit Descalzo's Contemporary Piano Video Library for more video performances and commentary, including a feature on Karen Tanaka's Crystalline II.

Karen Tanaka Joins PSNY

We're thrilled to announce that PSNY is now representing three works by Karen Tanaka, who has one of the most unique compositional voices of her generation. Hailing from Japan, Tanaka has lived and worked in Tokyo, Paris, Florence, and Los Angeles, and the cultures and environments of each location have contributed to her compositional work. Since studying and working at IRCAM from the mid-1980s to the early 2000s, Tanaka has worked with computers to explore the beauty of sonic structure and tone colors, an inward journey that is always mediated by her consideration of the listener's experience in a concert hall. 

In 2012, Tanaka became a fellow at the Sundance Institute's Composers Lab, where she was introduced to the world of composition for film while studying under Hollywood's leading composers, editors, and sound designers. Blending natural and electronic sounds, Tanaka's current work even more powerfully evokes images of nature, and plays with the intricacies of natural sound.

Tanaka's instrumental work often explores the intertwining of sound and nature, with many compositions drawing on themes of the environment, landscapes, or natural phenomena. PSNY has made three of Tanaka's chamber works available, each involving the piano. 

For solo piano, Water Dance focuses on "texture and timbre in piano, in order to project images of fluid and elusive phenomenon, water and shimmering light. [...] The repetitive patterns gradually change just as the water flows continuously and never the same phase." In addition to this solo piano work, PSNY now offers Ocean for piano and violin, and Enchanted Forest for piano and horn. 

Check out some excerpts from Enchanted Forest here:

Tanaka's scoring for Acho on the Road, a 2013 animation, has been heard at over 20 film festivals internationally. Check out the full animation below. 


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