December 30, 2019 – Karakurenai

Next on our Spirits profile is Andy Akiho’s Karakurenai. It’s ironic that this piece, meant to evoke a meditative state, created one of the biggest rehearsal headaches we have ever encountered!! 

Karakurenai juxtaposes a complex ostinato pattern (in 31/16) against a changing melodic fragment that switches between 1, 3, 5, and 20 quarter-note groupings, creating a zen-like ebb and flow. The players perform in unison for the duration of the work.

Karakurenai is part of a series of pieces collectively titled the Synesthesia Suite. Karakurenai is Japanese for crimson, which is the colour composer Andy Akiho associates with F#, a pitch prominently featured in the work.  

While preparing and researching this piece we listened to several interpretations (Karakurenai is openly scored for any instrument or combination of instruments), so there are many versions readily available. Several of these renditions seem to draw out the quirky nature of the piece, indeed, our first instinct was to do the same. 

Over the last few months, as our concept and programme have continued to take shape, we have settled on an interpretation that explores a wide range of percussive sounds and textures.

In our rehearsals we have been focussing on groove, and creating a consistent and cohesive blend. On the marimba, Zac has been experimenting with an array of traditional latex mallets. The warm but articulate “tick” created by these mallets sits nicely in the resonance of the piano played in the same range as Edana. 

Originally conceived as a personal daily exercise or meditation, we have tried to resist the urge to fill the sparse unison ostinato with preparations that distract from the harmonic and rhythmic interplay.

We are looking forward to sharing this flexible piece of musical-yoga with you soon. We cannot believe we are only one month away from the start of the Spirits tour!