|update - new release
webcast from Philadelphia performance
03.25.2000 - 9:00pm EST
A personal message from Ryuichi--
I have just learned that Sony Classical, our record company outside Japan,has made a manufacturing error on some copies of my CD BTTB made in the U.S. The Sony Classical version of BTTB was produced to contain a previously unreleased song "Reversing", recorded just for this CD. Unfortunately, this song was omitted from some copies of the CD when it was initially shipped in the U.S. To address this problem, we have arranged with Sony Classical for new replacement CDs to be manufactured; these are already shipping to stores. Anyone purchasing the defective CD can return it immediately to any store where it was purchased, to exchange it for the corrected CD.
For updated information, please access sitesakamoto.com.
I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. I hope you enjoy the music.
Thank you very much for your loyalty and patience.
The URL for the link to Sony is: http://www.sonyclassical.com/music/89079/reversing-ms.html
Due to a manufacturing error at the CD pressing plant in the U.S., some copies of B T T B have been shipped with track 16, "Reversing", missing from the disc.
If you believe you have purchased one of these defective CDs, please click here for information on downloading this track.
comments on BTTB tracks
I added on to a 30 second piece written for a commercial to make it a complete piece (laughs). It had been a commercial for a nutrition product. The theme of the music had been "music that heals the body." In order to be appealing within the extremely short time frame of a commercial, rather than going with the so-called "healing" style of music which extends serenely over one chord, this piece has definite chords and melody. The music one hears on TV today is so chaotic and busy that I would imagine the sound of just a piano is therapeutic enough.
Put Your Hands Up
When you listen to this piano version, I think you can tell that it has "healing" properties (laughs). Perhaps it is due to Mr. Tsukushi's character in that program, but even for an event happening today seems, in just a short span of time, as if we are viewing it objectively like something that is a part of history. I wanted to project that kind of mood. In the past, most music for news has been fanfare sort of things. Fast tempos with wild drums became the mainstream. I wanted to boldly try to break from that sort of thing. Also, I have recently gotten into Celtic music, so I tried a few Celtic touches. Celtic music has a lot of grace notes that sound like Japanese kobushi songs. I think it probably suits the slightly "wet" sensibility of the Japanese people.
Railroad Man - Piano Version
It goes without saying that this was written as the title song for the Jiro Asada film "The Railroad Workers (Poppoya)". We had decided that Miu would be singing this song, so the main thing I had in my head was to write something that would fit her voice. The film is set in the North Country of Japan so I wanted to evoke, in a simple way, the cold and the nostalgic smell of steam locomotives. The clarity of the Hokkaido of snows, and nostalgia - you could say that this piece was written with the image of these two things mixed with Miu's voice.
Melodies may pop into my head but I forget them right away. Although I can usually remember harmony or timbre, I forget melodies. Since that is such a terrible waste, if a melody pops into my head in a restaurant, for instance, I will draw a 5-line staff on a paper napkin and write down the melody. I used to go to bed with blank staff paper next to my pillow. If a melody would come to me in a dream I would quickly wake up and write it down. When I would get up in the next morning, though, I usually wouldn't be able to decipher what I had written down! (Laughs) Now in order to be able to save something, no matter when or where it happens, I always carry a really small portable recorder in my bag. This tune came to me while I was driving my car in Japan, and so while I was stuck in traffic I rolled up the windows and sang it into a hand-held miniature recorder. (Laughs)
This is a piece that emerged somehow while I was playing the piano. It has a simple chord structure. Where the melody rubs with the chords is actually where I used the wrong fingers while I was playing (laughs). The effect of the rub is a prewar French sound, like the music of Ravel or Poulenc. I have loved Ravel's Sonatine since I was about ten years old, and I wanted to create a piece like that. Not actually "a piece like that", but I wanted to write a Sonatine in the same spirit that Ravel used to write his Sonatine. At the time Ravel wrote his, the sonatine as a form was outdated, but I think he dared to use it because he approached it in the spirit of doing something pseudo-classical or neoclassical. In that sense, perhaps that makes this piece "pseudo-pseudo-classical."
There is a CD that I always take with me when I travel. It's a CD of Glenn Gould playing the Brahms Intermezzo(s). Gould recordings of Brahms are fairly rare; I think he only put out one or two CDs of Brahms. I was only about 5 years old when Gould made his recording debut with Bach's "Goldberg Variations" and I have been a huge fan of Gould ever since. In this piece, I didn't particularly imitate Brahms, but I think the atmosphere is similar. The arpeggios in the middle section are not just arpeggios. There are sounds shaping a melody hidden in them as well. This use of arpeggios was started in Brahms' time by Schumann and is a characteristic of the late Romantics.
Lorenz and Watson
This piece emerged as I was playing the piano, trying to find a motif; it resembles "sonatine" a bit. The feeling of the piece is such that it if French lyrics were put to it would sound almost like a French song. In that sense, this piece may be closest to Satie. When trying to find the right timbre on a piano, one usually plays just chords, with no melody, but as you know playing just chords can get tedious. So when I want to play something quasi-melodic I let my fingers move in a random way to produce strange sounds. In the case of this piece, the dissonance that came about by doing this just so happened to be the "blue notes" used in the blues. But it doesn't sound a bit like the blues, does it? That's what I like! (Laughs)
Choral No. 1 / Choral No. 2
I made "BTTB" just at the time when I should have been starting work on my opera, and so I wrote these two pieces as an exercise for the opera. The feeling I wanted was something like that of the many beautiful chorales throughout Bach's "St. Matthew Passion", but the end result was more medieval, harmonized like Gregorian chants. The harmonization is a bit Satie-like, don't you think? Satie also wrote a lot of ceremonial music. Gregorian chants are still alive and well in France today; that's because it's a Catholic country. On Sundays over there you can hear them everywhere. I wrote 1 and 2 at the same time, but 1 is static, 2 is dynamic. They became two contrasting pieces.
The "bachata" is a Latin American music form, but I really wrote this as a bolero. The form is a repeating rhythmic pattern in the left hand with a melody over it, in a slow tempo. Since I didn't want people to think I was imitating Mr. Ravel, who wrote an overly famous bolero (laughs), I decided to not call it a "bolero" but hunted around for another name for a form that was like a bolero. I asked a friend, who told me about the bachata. The piece itself is in a Latin style. Rather, the use of harmony and so forth is Ravel-like.
Basically I don't really like songs, although I'm actually somewhat fond of Edith Piaf. I really like the songs in which she is sort of humming, in a stylish way, instead of belting passionately, In terms of Edo-era culture (1615-1868) the equivalent in mood would be the satirical senryu poems, perhaps. Satie used to play the piano in bars and cabarets for money, which is the reason he also wrote some chanson-like light pieces. The chatter and laughter of the patrons, the smell of the alcohol and tobacco, the sound of the music that was being played at that time in the noisy bars of Satie's Paris - that is the sort of music I tried to write here.
I wrote this for my daughter Miu Sakamoto's album. So this is a cover. We have a slightly odd situation here; a cover version released before the original ... Miu's voice has no vibrato. It's a sort of New Age type voice, or maybe I should say it is a voice with a strong element of "healing" in it. I consciously wrote for that. I wrote this on the synthesizer using various sounds but, unusual for me, I used extremely gentle, simple chords. It's a type of piece I would probably not have written for myself.
I have been playing this piece in concert for a long time. In an arrangement for four hands, I have to be careful in dividing the parts so that sounds don't clash and the hands don't get in the way of each other. In this case rather than write it out in advance, I constructed the arrangement in my head. Then I played the lower part on the piano, anticipating what I would do with the next part, and had the computer remember it. That was played back as I played the upper part myself. So it was a one-person fourhanded thing. By all means, you should use it for your piano lessons! (Laughs).
"BTTB" uses a Mongolian instrument, a mouth harp on "do bacteria sleep?" and a prepared piano on "prelude", "uetax", and "sonata". When it came time to make "BTTB," I had decided that I would do a piano album, but I didn't yet know the direction it would take. I thought, "Well, then why don't I do something that shows all the possibilities of the piano?" And the first thing that came to my mind was a prepared piano. A prepared piano is a piano with objects that, when inserted between the strings, change its sound. John Cage originally popularized it. Cage liked the sound of the gamelan orchestras of Bali. I think he wanted to make the gamelan sound with a piano and that led to the prepared piano. I also love gamelan music and I wanted everyone to know that these sounds could be made with a piano. As to the objects that are inserted in a prepared piano, of course there are screws and the like for the purpose, but I also use things like rubber erasers. It's really interesting how the sound changes depending on the quality and size of the objects. There are a lot of piano teachers in Japan, but there probably aren't any that teach prepared piano. It would be wonderful if there were even just one who could teach things like "this is the best shape eraser to use," or "and you insert it like this." (Laughs).
Because I have been working in a classical vein from 1998 until now in 1999, on "BTTB" and on my opera, I expect that by sometime next year I will have a reaction to this. When I do one thing for a long period of time my attention is usually then drawn in the opposite direction.
For example, I'll start thinking I want to practice the guitar and be like Clapton (laughs). And then I'd have a band with just drums, bass, and guitar. But no keyboard. For me a band would be "back to the basics". You know I rock in my heart. (Laughs).
I had been thinking somehow that "BTTB" would be my first and last album of just piano. But I now feel that I would like to do another if the opportunity comes up. There are many piano lovers in Japan, and maybe it's because a lot of them actually play the piano, but my piano pieces are widely accepted. That makes me sincerely happy. Furthermore, I think that the piano will be with me for the rest of my life. It certainly is the instrument that is closest to me.