My collaborator on today's post, Yoko Ortega has, perhaps, the most cinematic life-story of anyone I've known. A Hiroshima survivor, Yoko grew up to be a radio and television celebrity in Japan with one of the country's first unscripted talk shows, and a million selling children's album (Yoko described it as "The Japanese Snow White" with Yoko singing the part of "Snow White" - I had hoped to post some excerpts, but, alas, I seem to have misplaced my copy and can't find a sign of it on the web). From what she showed me in her clip-book, Yoko's image was apparently a common sight in magazine and TV advertisements, and she told me she received a good bit of criticism in her day for her flamboyant fashion sense and the "too-outspoken" attitudes she displayed in her talk show. In the midst of her fame and fortune, Yoko met and married an American soldier from New Mexico and moved from the flash and glitter of her Tokoyo life to a small town in northern New Mexico, where her limited English didn't do much to help her communicate with her Spanish speaking neighbors. When I met her, she was teaching children with disabilities in an elementary school in Albuquerque and, despite being old enough to retire, was, instead, completing her Master's Degree. Much beloved by her students, Yoko used music (and her insider access to real Japanese Pokemon cards) to motivate her students to find their own talents and show them to the world.
In the years since this was recorded, I have lost contact with Yoko, so she has never heard the completed piece. The song was designed to be played 3 times independently: once on piano, once with a string quartet, and once with a brass quartet. Each performance was to be played without hearing the other performances and then all three were to be superimposed onto each other. This would allow slight differences in tempo (particularly during the long rests sprinkled throughout) to interleave the melody and make it more and more chaotic as the piece progressed. These 3 takes were then to be superimposed again over a quieter mirrored recording of themselves. I have never managed to organize the recordings of the chamber groups, so this is a rough sketch of the piece based on Yoko's piano performances. Listening to it, I think I may revisit the piece and see if I can complete it as intended. The sound quality suffers a bit from the quick and dirty tape manipulations, but adds a certain atmosphere that I like. I picture this as the soundtrack to a grainy silent film, perhaps Nosferatu.
Enjoy. Up next, more experimental pieces from the New Mexico State University Experimental Music Laboratory.