Antares Rising (2010) for wind ensemble w/ taiko group

Antares Rising (2010) 8 min.
for wind ensemble w/ taiko group
Premiere: May 15, 2010. University of California, Santa Cruz
2011 Truman State University/MACRO Composition Award

World Premiere performance by
The UCSC Wind Ensemble
Directed by Rob Klevan
Watsonville Taiko
Directed by Ikuyo Conant

May 15, 2010
UC Santa Cruz

Taiko is very open-minded when it comes to collaborating with other styles of music, and a good example of this occurred with my own experience playing with Watsonville Taiko. I joined Watsonville Taiko in 2009 as a passionate supporter of its art form. Eventually, Taeko D’Andrea, their business manager and also performer, discovered that I was also a composer and was researching Taiko as part of my doctoral studies. She showed some of my compositions to Ikuyo Conant, Watsonville Taiko’s sensei, and they invited me to collaborate. I was delighted and immediately thought of a joint-collaboration with the UCSC Wind Ensemble — since Rob Klevan had previously expressed interest in commissioning a new piece from me. I asked Taeko if I could adopt “Asayake,” one of Watsonville Taiko’s signature pieces, as a basis for my new piece. Ikuyo, the composer of the piece agreed.

I spoke at great lengths with the composer of “Asayake,” Ikuyo Sensei, about what the piece means to hear and how she would like it to be represented. She began explaining what the word meant in Japanese and how there is a duality in taiko, and the challenge for me — was to recognize that duality and find the third aspect. I studied the piece for weeks before writing anything. I transcribed it digitally and laid out the entire form including all of the repeats. I pondered on the idea of duality, of yin and yang; two extremes that meet and compliment each other in a mutually beneficial way. Around this time I was studying the music of the 20th century composer, Gyorgy Ligeti, and one of his statements seem to fit into my process of enlightenment: “one often arrives at something qualitatively new by unifying two already known but separate domains.” Ligeti’s statement instantly conjured the idea of two separate domains: Earth and Wind — Membranophone and Aerophone — Taiko and Wind Ensemble. In our practice drills, Ikuyo constantly reminds us to “stay grounded” and send our energy to the Earth. Taiko is a much “grounded” type of energy. However, a Wind Ensemble is the exact opposite. All of the sounds dance in the air and point up — the energy is ascending. I created textures of contrast between the two ensembles: the taiko sextet would provide a stable, grounded sort of texture while the Wind Ensemble would provide a sense of eternal ascension. When the two extreme culminate, there is an explosion of both upward and downward motion: the third element is combustion. When two energies are pulling each other in different directions and neither is giving way — there will be a rupture.

“Asayake” translates to “morning glow” or “sunrise colors.” The synesthetic implications of the piece instantly spoke to me. I began imagining the landscape of the piece, the image of the sun rising soon became something much larger. I began picturing a Red Giant star rising…then a Red Supergiant star! Imagine witnessing the grandeur and frightening power…I chose as the subject for this star to be Antares, known as the heart of the Scorpio constellation. Antares glows bright red and has been often mistaken for Mars, the planet of war, hence, Antares ancient Greek name which means, “against Mars.” Antares glows 10,000 times brighter than our Sun and is 500 times its size. Many of the old Egyptian temples are oriented so that the light of Antares plays a role in the ceremonies performed there. Antares is so massive that someday it will develop an iron core and eventually explode as a brilliant supernova, which musically occurs near the end of “Antares Rising.”

Pages from Nick Vasallo - Antares Rising (2010) 1

Antares Rising (2010)
for wind ensemble w/ taiko group
Full Score (Digital)