Notes and Editorial Reviews
Kawai Shiu (pn)
ABLAZE 00012 (62: 37)
This remarkable collection of 18 short pieces (less than five minutes) and one longer one (11 minutes) belongs to a special category of modern music. Kawai Shiu’s style is, in parts, experimental, impressionistic, jazzy, poetic, and devotional. The immediate impetus for this creation was the catastrophic tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. The technical parameters of the music are inspired by a photograph that a friend of Shiu’s sent him, depicting
the man seated before a piano keyboard that had washed up on a beach. “The keys moved reluctantly when I pushed them down, hard,” he wrote, “but refused to make a sound. I felt an unexplainable void and helplessness inside me.”
Shiu was haunted by the image, and also determined to find the sound that could represent that human disaster. He salvaged an old Russian upright that had the name “Tchaikovsky” and set about to prepare it—thus, his description of the instrument as a “prepared condemned piano.” Beyond that, there is no further technical information supplied about Shiu’s process. His miking is extremely vivid, probably inside of the instrument. There may be some digital manipulation going on as well, but this is just a guess. Perhaps Shiu is reticent about his technique because he doesn’t want it to get in the way of the message.
The work itself, even without the benefit of any visual stimulation, is as much theatrical as it is musical. I am strongly reminded of the work of Victoria Jordanova. Her
Requiem for Bosnia
for solo harp is similarly evocative and haunting, and also inspired by a gut-wrenching modern-day human tragedy. In both cases, even though the subjects that inspired the music are dreadful, the results are oddly compelling and even cathartic.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
Works on This Recording
For Loss, for prepared condemned piano by Kawai Shiu
Kawai Shiu (Prepared Piano)
Length: 2 Minutes 26 Secs.
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