Walk in Beauty
Aki Takahashi, piano; Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, violin, piano, vibraphone & tom-toms
Often simple in design, his consonant or modal melodies, frequently inspired by southwestern Native American or Mexican folk music, grow rich in resonances through repetition or subtle variation, suggesting the stark beauty and vast open space of the New Mexican desert.
The conceptual basis of "Walk in Beauty" is found in the all-night peyote ceremonies of the Native American Church and the curing ceremonies of the Navajo. There is also a simple musical correlation: In the fast, nervous repetition of single notes, and their high pitch registration (as in the first section) can be heard the influence of peyote drumming and musical style. And perhaps there is a certian similarity in the emotional function of the music too.
The movements follow a hypothetical sunset to sunrise time cycle, and are dedicated to close friends. Movement One is in three parts: (1) "Walk in Beauty" (opening song) for Aki Takahashi; (2)"Turquoise Trail: In memoriam Louise Varese" (sunset song); and (3) "A Peyote Fan" (night song) for Lou Harrison and William Colvig. Movement Two is subtitled "A Pine-Pitch Basket" (midnight song), after the baskets covered with pitch used as water vessels in the Southwest, and is dedicated to Susan Ohori. Movement Three is in two sections: (1) "Lightning Flash" (rumba-not really) for Conlon "El Rey" Nancarrow (night song); and (2) "Walk in Beauty (Calling Home My Shadow)" for Peter Garland -- myself (sunrise song). The piece was written from August 15 to October 31, 1989.
As mentioned, the second section of the first movement, "Turquoise Trail", is dedicated to the memory of Louise Varese -- translator, author and wife of the composer -- who died July 1, 1989 at the age of 98, and whom I was privileged to know. In the midst of this part a musical "visitor" arrives, and interrupts the texture: the ghost of Erik Satie. This is a dual reference: To Aki Takahashi's fame as an interpreter of Satie and to a comment I made to Louise Varese on my only visit with her, in New York City in 1975, that I was amazed to be spending an afternoon with a person who had entertained Erik Satie on a similar day in 1921.
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