Marty Regan


Original Compositions for Shakuhachi, Shamisen, 21-String Koto & String Quartet

Song-Poem of he Eastern Clouds / Shinonome No Uta
for Shakuhachi and 21-String Koto

As a Western composer, my shakuhachi studies have opened up my mind and ears to a new musical world. In traditional shakuhachi honkyoku, the flow of musical time is based not on a fixed meter, but rather than on the breath of the performer. Rhythm is free, and long tones are indicated by extended lines, allowing the performer to concentrate his or her attention on tone and timbre rather than counting to some arbitrary tempo and meter. A traditional shakuhachi melody should sound as natural as the wind blowing in the trees.

Shinonome No Uta is an attempt to realize, in Western staff notation, the characteristics of traditional shakuhachi honkyoku by eliminating the bar line and developing a set of symbols which gives the performers the liberty to enter and cut off at their own will. The score is designed with an element of indeterminacy in regards to ensemble, giving the performers a sense of freedom. The idea for this composition came when I was watching the clouds float freely in the sky on a perfect spring morning, their shapes shifting endlessly with the gently blowing breeze.

Published in Japan. 5-Line Staff notation. 20 pages. ES-1

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for Shakuhachi, Shamisen, and 21-String Koto

dragoneyes was inspired a Chikuho school shakuhachi honkyoku called Ryûmei-chû ('Melody of the Singing Dragon'). This honkyoku tells the story of a sleeping dragon who wakes, takes off in flight, and returns to his lair. Adopting a similar program, I decided to compose a piece for a sankyoku-like ensemble.

The piece is roughly organized into the following sections: dragon sleeps, dragon wakes, dragon sings, dragon takes off in flight, dragon rests, dragon plays, dragon chases. One can follow the program easily from the abrupt changes of texture and tempo. The form, variety of tempos and overall musical flow were influenced by my experience playing in a sankyoku ensemble in Hawai'i, although the textures are more contrapuntal and homophonic rather than heterophonic.

The tuning for dragoneyes is quite unique: (B-C#-D-E-F#-G-A#-B). At first glance it appears to be a B harmonic minor scale. However, because the two lowest strings are tuned to a perfect fifth (G-D), it allows me to switch back and forth between B harmonic minor and a unique scale centered on G which has both a major and minor third and a sharp four (G-Bb-B-C#-D-E-F#-G). Despite its simplicity, this tuning renders an enormous range sounds, colors, and rich chromatic harmonies. Both of these scales are quite exotic, rendering the image of a dragon, an icon in the West for Asian sensuality.

Published in Japan. 5-Line Staff notation. 78 pages. ES-2

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Shadows of the Moon / Tsukikage Gensokyoku
for Shakuhachi and Shamisen

Among my works for traditional Japanese instruments, Shadows of the Moon may be one of the darkest. The poetic title echoes the darkness and distant character of the music. The composition begins pensively with a lyrical duet between the shamisen and shakuhachi, followed by an expressive shakuhachi solo accompanied sparsely by the shamisen. A lively moto perpetuo section follows, with the shamisen accompaniment based on material from the opening. This section winds down into an extended lyrical section, with melodic material divided evenly between the two instruments. After arriving at what seems like a final cadence, momentum slowly builds up again and erupts into a frantic, driving section. Just as a violent ending seems imminent, the piece grinds to a halt and ends with a calm reflection on the lyrical ideas spaced throughout the work. Inspiration for this piece came from imagining the rotations of the moon, as different areas are slowly plunged into darkness and re-emerge into light. Shadows of the Moon was commissioned by Tetsuya Nozawa and premiered by Tetsuya Nozawa (shamisen) and Ban Hidemasu (shakuhachi) on August 1, 2008 at the Beacon Plaza in Beppu City, Oita Prefecture, Japan.

Published in Japan. 5-Line Staff notation. 24 pages. ES-3

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for Shakuhachi and String Quartet

This piece is a sonic reflection on our mortality and the impermanence of our lives, and the title simply refers to the personal journey that each of us takes. It is dedicated to the memory of Mary Elizabeth Farmer, a student of mine from Texas A&M University who was tragically killed in a car accident in Austin, Texas on May 15, 2008.

Voyage was commissioned by the World Shakuhachi Festival 08’ and was generously supported by Texas A&M University’s Program to Enhance Scholarly and Creative Activities Grant. It was premiered in Sydney, Australia at the World Shakuhachi Festival 08’ on July 6, 2008 by Dr. James Franklin (shakuhachi) and the Grainger String Quartet.

Published in Japan. Tozan-ryu & 5-Line Staff notation. 53 pages. ES-4

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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.

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