July 29, 2009

Mamoru Fujieda - Patterns Of Plants (1997, Tzadik)

Mamoru Fujieda is a "post-minimalist" modern classical composer from Japan who released a pair of CDs in the mid-'90s on John Zorn's avant-garde Tzadik label, reviews of which were some of my first exposure to the label, home to many influential contemporary classical and art-noise names. One can always expect a page-length explanation of each piece in a Tzadik release, as the pieces are frequently the result of some complicated academic sound production scheme. Fujieda's "Music For Plants" is ostensibly composed based on the scientific charting of electrical impulses in the leaves of plants, and the sonic result is a very pleasant palette of gentle plucked string sequences using mysterious-sounding alternative tunings that reference Greek and Asian modes. The pieces are presented in a series of collections, each consisting of four patterns played on different combinations of 17 and 20-string koto, hitsu (25-string zither), sho and viola da gamba, as well as one collection of solo harpsichord pieces. The music has a graceful, soothing quality, with a slightly alien edge due to the non-Western tunings, and makes for very pleasant ambient music. Fujieda continued to compose collections of patterns in the series throughout the '90s and '00s, and released a second collection entitled "Patterns Of Plants II" late last year on Tzadik, continuing in similar directions with mostly the same instrumentation (minus the harpsichord). The new collection has a slightly more lush tone, with more movement and a bit more emphasis on the higher frequencies of sustained sho and violin tones in contrast to the mellow koto plucking on volume one. My preference goes to the subdued calm and slightly more sparse/spacious instrumentation of the first collection, but both sets are well worth hearing.