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the trio world tour 1996
An excerpt on '1996' from 'Ronza' magazine written by Aquirax Asada.

Late-Century Rhapsodies...Ryuichi Sakamoto's "1996"

During a visit to Copenhagen early last summer, I had the chance to hear Ryuichi Sakamoto's concert in nearby Roskilde. A quiet town, Roskilde is the historic burial site of Denmark's royal family. It seemed like the ideal setting for the classical trio featuring Ryuichi Sakamoto on piano, accompanied by Everton Nelson's violin and Jack Morelenbaum's cello.

Or so I thought. As it turns out, the Roskilde Festival is a kind of Scandinavian Woodstock, where the day long drunken Danish bachanal is fueled by cases of bottled beer and the latest rock bands blaring from eight outdoor stages. (By the way, Denmark promotes recycling by prohibiting the sale of canned beer.) Now just imagine a piano trio in the middle of all this...

Amidst all the cacophany, the audience at first seemed bewildered by the minimal string tones and the sweet melody line from the piano on "Bibo no Aozora". But gradually the audience began to tune in, and a superb rendition of "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" brought the cacophany to a standstill. Although I later learned that Jacques, the cellist, was openly critical, saying, "It was like trying to ride a wild horse out there!", there was no doubt in anyone's mind that the trio succeeded in taming this wild horse. Even "1919", featuring a fixed tone reverberating over recordings of Lenin's speeches and a moire-like spiraling rhythm, was greeted with genuine interest and enthusiastic applause. The trio had definitely painted the cloudy Scandinavian sky with parabolic strokes of beauty.

Ryuichi Sakamoto has become well-known for his mastery of new technology in creating music and his use of large-scale video systems in performance. But at the same time, he has continued to play concerts with his piano trio. The album "1996" is the culmination of the trio's efforts, and the concert I attended was one stop on a world tour to promote its release.

Now that I'm back from my trip, I like to listen to the CD on quiet evenings. When I do, I'm always surprised by the purity of this beautiful gem. Don't get me wrong: machines have come a long way. But the machine we call human, sitting in front of the keyboard, is still far more complex. The piano shows off minute hesitations in some spots and sharp, driving tempos in others. The result is sensual and sophisticated without being sappy. A quiet setting, I realize, is the only way to really appreciate the subtleties of "Bibo no Aozora." There are also some deep, rich film score pieces here, including "The Sheltering Sky" and "The Wuthering Heights".

You won't find any synthesizers or the like on "1996," and there's no singing by Ryuichi Sakamoto, who could have seen adding words as a kind of mandate for a star of his stature. Nonetheless, the instrumentals speak to the listener like an eloquent rhapsody. The songs flow out lavishly, each possessing a deep, late-century romanticism. In them, we hear a musician who is representative of the end of our own century.

As demonstrated by the reaction of those young Vikings, this music is truly causing reverberations throughout the world. Meanwhile, I wait in anticipation for the end of the summer, when the trio concludes its world tour and returns to Japan to perform.

(C)Aquirax Asada (From "Ronza," September 1996 issue)

Translation by Andy Raskin 1996
Translation edited by David de Graw

(c)2001 KAB America Inc.
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