MARTY REGAN (b. 1972) has composed over 55 works for traditional Japanese instruments and since 2002 has been affiliated with AURA-J, one of Japan's premiere performance ensembles of contemporary-traditional Japanese music.

Marty graduated from Oberlin College in 1995 with a B.M. in Composition and a B.A. in English and East Asian Studies. From 2000 to 2002 he studied composition and took applied lessons on traditional Japanese instruments as a Japanese government-sponsored research student at Tokyo College of Music. He completed his Ph.D. in Music with an emphasis in Composition at the University of Hawai'i, Manoa in 2006.

In 2002, his composition Song-Poem of the Eastern Clouds (2001) for shakuhachi and 21-string koto was premiered at the 5th Annual Composition Competition for Traditional Japanese Instruments at the National Theatre of Japan.

His works for Japanese instruments riverrun (2003), Light of the Rainbow (2003), dragoneyes (2004), wildfire (2005), Maqam (2008), Evanescent Yearning...(2008), Shadows of the Moon, (2008), 21-String Koto Concerto No. 2: 'Love' (2009), In the Night Sky (2010), and Shadows of the Flames (2011) have been recorded and released on various record labels in Japan. His English translation of Minoru Miki's orchestration manual, Composing for Japanese Instruments was published in 2008 by the University of Rochester Press. In 2010, Navona Records released a compact disc of his works entitled "Marty Regan's Selected Works for Japanese Instruments, Vol. 1: Forest Whispers..." The second volume in the Selected Works for Japanese Instruments series, subtitled Magic Mirror, was released in 2012 by the same label.

In 2011 Marty was affiliated as a research scholar at Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where he took applied lessons on traditional Chinese instruments. His newest work, a chamber opera entitled "The Memory Stone," was commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera and will be premiered in April 2013 at the Asia Society Texas Center. He is an Assistant Professor of Music at Texas A&M University.

Selected Works for Japanese Instruments - Vol. 2

Original compositions by Marty Regan featuring the shakuhachi, koto, and shamisen in various combinations along with Western instruments

1. flamefox
Seizan Sakata (Shakuhachi)
2. dragoneyes
Tetsuya Nozawa (Shamisen), Seizan Sakata (Shakuhachi), Nobuhiro Wakatsuki (Percussion)
3. In the Night Sky
Erina Matsumura (Koto), Nobuhiro Wakatsuki (Percussion), Kenji Yamaguchi (Shakuhachi)
4. Magic Mirror
Maya Sakai (Ryuteki), Kazue Tajima (Sho), Hitomi Nakamura (Hichiriki),
Tetsuya Nozawa (Shamisen), Yuka Sawada (Shinobue)
5. Voyage
Shozan Tanabe (Shakuhachi), Etsuko Hirano (Violin), Masabumi Sekiguchi (Cello),
Saeko Wakiya (Viola), Gen Takeuchi (Violin)
6. Devil's Bridge
Tetsuya Nozawa (Shamisen), Akiko Sakurai (Biwa)

A Few Words from the Composer

The standard definition of a mirror is a surface, usually of glass, capable of reflecting light to form an image of an object placed in front of it. It also refers to something that renders a faithful representation, or idea, of something else. It is the latter definition in which the spirit of the compositions on this compact disc are based.

Since 2000, I have cultivated a deep relationship with the musical culture of Japan. My compositional work since then has been focused on expanding and developing the repertoire of contemporary music for traditional Japanese instruments and creating musical works that explore cross-cultural exchange. The influence of various genres of traditional Japanese music was clearly apparent in many of my early works. Over the past decade, however, as I became more comfortable in composing idiomatically for these instruments, something unexpected happened. Similar to the experience of looking into a mirror and seeing one's own reflection, my work with traditional Japanese instruments and their corresponding aesthetics helped me to recognize, reflect upon, and ultimately strengthen my identity as a Western-trained American composer. The works on this compact disc contain some of my most dynamic compositions where I actively seek to push Japanese instruments into previously unimaginable musical territory by drawing upon my American roots and study of Western classical music. For example, the rhythmic and textural vocabulary of flamefox (2007) was inspired by Steve Reich's Vermont Counterpoint (1982), while Devil's Bridge (2010) uses aggressive playing techniques found in traditional biwa repertoire recontextualized within a rock 'n roll context. dragoneyes (2004) makes use of a unique 21-string koto tuning that allows me to access rich chromatic and extended tertian harmonies often found in jazz, while the lush orchestral string writing in Voyage (2008) echoes with references to the music of Samuel Barber and Arvo Part, above which a somber solo shakuhachi soars. References to traditional Japanese music, while still strongly present in works such as Magic Mirror (2008), have receded away from the surface of many of my compositions to make way for a more fertile, multidimensional soundscape.

I would like to dedicate this compact disc to the memory of my teacher and mentor, Minoru Miki (1930-2011) for entrusting me with numerous professional tasks throughout the past decade that afforded me opportunities to become intimately familiar with Japanese instruments. His boundless knowledge, life experience, contagious energy, and drive inspires me everyday in my own work with Japanese instruments, and our fateful meeting in April 2000 changed the direction of my life.

- Marty Regan, Bryan-College Station, TX (March, 2012)


Selected Works for Japanese Instruments - Vol. 1

Original compositions by Marty Reganfeaturing the shakuhachi, koto, and shamisen in various combinations along with Western instruments

1. 東雲の詩/Song-Poem of the Eastern Clouds (2001)
Shakuhachi: Seizan Sakata
21-string koto: Reiko Kimura

2-4. 細雪を想い... /Evanescent Yearning... (2008)
Shamisen: Tetsuya Nozawa
13-string koto: Sahoko Nozawa

5. In Remembrance... (2006)
Shakuhachi: Seizan Sakata
Violin: Kioko Miki
Violoncello: Asako Hisatake
Piano: Yasuko Furuse

6. fastpass! (2007)
Shamisen: Tetsuya Nozawa
Ko-tsuzumi: Kaho Tōsha

7. 森が囁いて... /Forest Whispers... (2008)
Shakuhachi: Seizan Sakata
Violoncello: Asako Hisatake

This CD has an enhanced content component that allows listeners to access PDF study scores, photos of the recording sessions, informative essays, biographical information, digital liner notes, and a video. MAC or PC compatible.

A Few Words from the Composer

I fell in love with Japan more or less by chance towards the end of my undergraduate career when I was planning to go to graduate school in music composition. The lure of Japan was irresistible, and I was first pulled to its shores for a three-year hiatus. By the time my first foray of living in this fascinating country was about to end, I had resolved to find a way to somehow engage myself with music anew without feeling that my time spent in Japan was in vain. In essence, I wanted to combine these two passions into one synergetic pursuit. I put the wheels in motion to return to Japan, this time to study Japanese instruments and music. Ten years later, in 2010, with the help of countless numbers of friends, colleagues, and mentors, this compact disc was born.

My works for Japanese instruments are deeply indebted to traditional Japanese musical aesthetics. Among the works on this compact disc, you will encounter the aesthetic concept of ma, roughly understood as “empty space,” which in the musical arts takes the form of dynamically-tensed silence. Borrowing an element from shakuhachi honkyoku–classical repertoire originally played by mendicant Zen monks–Song-Poem of the Eastern Clouds (2001) is designed with an element of rhythmic indeterminacy and uses proportional notation to facilitate a flow of musical time based on the natural patterns of the human breath. Proportional notation is also used in Forest Whispers... (2008), a duet composed for representative instruments from the “East” and “West.” In this work, the shakuhachi and violoncello are blended in such a way that they become nearly indistinguishable from each other. Additionally, traditional performance techniques and references to Japanese pitch collections abound in these works.

On the other hand, in more recent works I have attempted to draw upon my identity as a Western-trained American composer. For example, extensive use of counterpoint and modulation used for dramatic effect and to delineate form can be heard in In Remembrance... (2006). In celebration of my background in rock and popular music, the third movement of Evanescent Yearning... (2008) and fastpass! (2007) use driving, syncopated rhythms. In these compositions, the use of asymmetrical and mixed meter, not to mention repetition, can probably be traced back to my love for the music of Igor Stravinsky and Steve Reich.

Traditional Japanese instruments with a rich and cherished past are the means of expression in these works. At the same time, the music was born in an age where communication technology has resulted in the blurring, and in some instances the disintegration, of national, geographic, cultural, and linguistic boundaries to an extent unprecedented in the history of humankind. The works on this compact disc, therefore, are hybrid musical soundscapes that reflect the age in which we live, an era based not necessarily on globalization, but on partnership based on global cultural interaction.

I eagerly await the day that traditional Japanese instruments will be embraced on a global scale by audiences and composers alike.

- Marty Regan Bryan-College Station, TX (May. 2010)


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