<b>The Rolex protégée in music, Pauchi Sasaki, has made her debut at one of the world’s most famous music venues, Carnegie Hall in New York, in an evening shared with her Rolex mentor, Philip Glass.</b>
On 8 December, as her 80-year-old mentor Philip Glass began his season-long Carnegie Hall residency, composer Pauchi Sasaki made her debut at the renowned New York venue’s Zankel Hall, performing in one of her own compositions. The evening’s
theme was closely related to the experience of mentorship, an unofficial but fitting musical closure to the mentoring shared by Glass and Sasaki.
The programme for the evening, titled: “Reflections in Glass — Philip Glass and the Next Generation”, was performed by an all strings configuration of the American Composer Orchestra under the direction of Music Director George Manahan.
It featured the world premiere of Sasaki’s <em>GAMA XVI for Orchestra and Electronics</em> (2017), the New York premiere of Bryce Dessner’s <em>Réponse Lutoslawski</em> (2014) and Glass’s own Violin Concerto
No. 2, <em>The American Four Seasons</em> (2009).
<b>Reflection on others</b>
Each work was composed as a reflection on the work of other composers — with Glass reflecting on Vivaldi (1678 - 1741), Dressner on Lutoslawski (1913 - 1994) and Sasaki (born in 1981)
reflecting on Glass [born in 1937] himself. The theme of the programme was understanding musical DNA and genealogy as a form of influence.
In the programme notes, Sasaki wrote: “The string orchestra describes a space that is constantly changing its shape, a place that breathes and is alive.” <em>GAMA XVI</em>, which began the evening, was a culmination of both
Sasaki’s growth as a composer, performer and multimedia artist who creates art which “breathes and is alive”, as well as the pinnacle of her Rolex mentorship under Glass.
<em>GAMA XVI</em>, a visually stunning work, begins with a haunting, subtle and low chorus of strings that signal to the listener that they are going somewhere sonically uncharted and unfamiliar. It then gives way to a wiry
violin, which is heard in a duet with the crackling audio scape of recorded sounds. This is the kind of ambient sound Sasaki often uses in her work, and in this you can hear the genealogical influence of John Cage (1912 - 1992)
and his work <em>4’33”</em> (1952), which encourages listeners to hear the musicality of soundscapes all around us.
As the orchestra played onstage, Sasaki herself appeared at the rear of Zankel Hall wearing her signature speaker dress. Making vocal sounds which were amplified through the dress’s 100 speakers, she blended in with the two dozen string
musicians playing her notes. She made her way through the house to the stage, leaving the stage shortly after arriving on it to be replaced by the virtuoso violinist Tim Fain (who would return later in the programme as the soloist
for Glass’s <em>Concerto No. 2</em>).
<b>Homage to Philip Glass</b>
As <em>GAMA XVI</em> ended, Nomi Sasaki’s animation – by Sasaki’s sister and long-time collaborator - grew more complex, becoming reminiscent of frames in the movie <em>Tron</em> (1982). The rhythmic structures
of GAMA’s final section were “an homage to Philip” as Sasaki described them, and Fain’s final violin lines ended the piece as high, sharp and focused as it had begun low, ambient and diffuse.
In an onstage Q & A session after the concert, ACO President Edward Yim interviewed Glass and Sasaki about their year together as Rolex mentor and protégée.
Glass revealed his own musical DNA came from being mentored by Nadia Boulanger (1887 - 1979) and Ravi Shankar (1920 - 2012) in the 1960s, whom he described as “two angels on my shoulder”. Yim said: “I’m
awed by the notion, which is really what mentorship and lineage is all about, Pauchi, thinking about Nadia Boulanger and Ravi Shankar, other people in Philip’s life, passing on what they know to him, and now him passing that onto you.
I think that’s really amazing and beautiful.”
“I’m really grateful,” Sasaki said, to her final applause of the night.