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April 3, 2003

Japanese Music Festival Comes to UMBC

As the cherry blossoms bloom in DC, another gift from Japan is in residence at UMBC - the Music of Japan Festival. This is the first time this event has been held in the Baltimore-Washington area, having previously been held at Hamilton College in New York. The brainchild of music professors E. Michael Richards and Kazuko Tanosaki, this five-day extravaganza will feature performances by several guest composers, by RUCKUS, UMBC's contemporary music ensemble, and student ensembles, a dance performance, as well as lectures on the evolution of Japanese music.

Putting together this event was not an easy undertaking. "This is probably the largest festival of Japanese music outside of Japan," says Richards. "We are trying to combine music history and theory with performance."

"The topics of the lectures are varied," Richards adds, "It ranges from Japanese composition to Japanese rap music."

There is a strong student presence in this festival. This semester, Tanosaki is teaching MUSC 480: Topics in Music, Art and Society - Japanese Music and Culture. Students from this class will be performing in the piece entitled Calling Together. They will be focusing on the musical properties of language, tone and pitch. "[The work] takes on a musical quality because of the words that they choose and they way that they speak them," Richards says.

Four guest composers will be in attendance at the festival: Toshi Ichiyanagi, Joji Yuasa, Akira Nishimura, and Tokuhide Niimi. This decorated and world-renowned quartet will lecture and perform. Their compositions will be performed by both RUCKUS and student ensembles. "Just about all of the music will be by Japanese composers," Richards says. "It's been a lot of work, but we're all very excited."

The Music of Japan Today festival runs through April 6. For more information and a schedule of events, go to or call (410) 455-MUSC.

Jennifer Leigh Gibson

Posted by dwinds1 at April 3, 2003 12:00 AM