Toshio Hosokawa: Vertical Song I

I came into contact with the music of Toshio Hosokawa last summer, when I was advised by a percussionist to check out his marimba solo Reminiscence. That piece features some wonderful instrumental writing, so I decided to listen to his solo flute work Vertical Song I as research for a short piece of my own.

Due to curiosity about the notation of the breath techniques, my second listen came courtesy of this video, which shows the score. I was surprised to see some long silences notated out in the music (as well as a fermata over a rest to begin the piece). These long pauses didn’t jump out at me the first listen-through. In fact, I had a difficult time grasping onto anything during my first pass. This isn’t particularly unusual for me with most music. It can sometimes take 3 or 4 hearings for me to begin to get my bearings with a piece, or even more depending on how focused a frame of mind I’m in. Anyway, I had a difficult time with this piece. Much of it sounded similar to me. The most striking portion was the tea-kettle whistle tones at the end, an interesting sound which was an outgrowth of what came before but sufficiently different as to feel fresh. I didn’t find too much more on second and third listens, even with the score, although I did enjoy Hosokawa’s notation, which is precise, efficient, and clean. After multiple hearings the music is still a stranger to me, and I’m even more perplexed by its title. I can live with that. Perhaps more Hosokawa exposure will lead to more clarity, though perhaps it’ll lead to new, exciting confusions.

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