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The Night Chant

Mamoru Fujieda

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Album Review

The genius of Mamoru Fujieda is that he manages to produce albums thick with theory and concept that still manage to sound quite beautiful. The Night Chant is no exception. Though a good deal of planned randomness was involved in its execution, the album manages to never sound chaotic or discordant. Though not precisely controlled, the instruments that Fujieda has selected achieve a delicate balance and hold it throughout each of the two versions of "the Night Chant." The more complex (and earlier) of the two compositions, "Night Chant I," is actually presented second on the album. Both of the chants are based on a Navajo sand-painting ceremony. The goal was not to duplicate the ceremony but instead to capture the spirit of it within an Asian cultural context. In the first chant, each instrument represents something within the painting. The flute is an incantation to the wind, and he circles the stage four times, to correspond with the four directions and the four cycles of the piece. In each of the four corners of the stage, Mineko Grimmer's audible sculptures produce random sounds with iced pebbles hitting bamboo stalks, guitar strings, and water. The result is mystical — each note bursts into its own space and then fades away. Fujieda's computer work combines with other traditional instruments to make a result that sounds as much like temple music as it does something found on an experimental stage. "Night Chant III'" continues in this same vein, with a simpler instrumental arrangement. The music is pared down, slower and more minimal, and the computer takes a more central role, pairing only with a vocalist performing shomyo chants. The sense of four directions is preserved in the four cycles, but the synthesizer tuned in just intonation makes everything more fluid and unites the chanting with the music. Both pieces have a distinct spiritual edge, and while the parallels to Navajo music and culture need to be drawn outside of the piece so that the listener can see them inside, Fujieda is successful in capturing the spirit of sacred ritual.


Born: 1955

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s

Composer Mamorou Fujieda received his Ph.D. in music from the University of California, San Diego, in 1988. He studied composition with Morton Feldman, Joji Yuasa, Gordon Mumma, and Julio Estrada, and has had his work performed in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. Since his return to Japan in 1989, Fujieda has organized a sound art festival (SoundCulture Japan '93), worked as music director for Interlink (a festival for new American...
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The Night Chant, Mamoru Fujieda
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