Tag Archives: inspiration

Koto Jazz Piano at Japan Fair 2017, July 8 & 9, 2:30pm – 5pm; Annual Dinner, Sat. July 8, 6pm

Come join me at what promises to be an enjoyable event that offers you a visual introduction to all things Japanese. This includes a colorful fashion show to original Japanese performance by famous Kokyu performer Daikuke Kiba and my own variations on 1,000 year old Japanese koto music played on the keyboard. These include Haru no Umi, Tori no Yo Ni, and Kojo no Tsuki. I will also play my originals including recent art show selections Windy Wheat Fields and Snow Blossoms, and hyper fast Snow Flurry.

Sample previews are available here: https://kotojazz.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/sanger-de-christo-arts-center-represents-the-west-with-classy-exhibit/

 

Sangre de Cristo Arts Center “Represents the West” With Quality Exhibit

The Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo, Colorado showcases a stellar presentation, professional art exhibit “Representing The West”. My music was selected among 550 artists as part of the digital media section:

Song 01: Windy Kansas Wheat Fields

Song 02: Snow Blossoms

Song 03:  Snow Flurry

04: metamorph senses CD

In and Around the “Representing the West” Exhibit:

Out and About the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center:

Koto Jazz tune 91: Creating a free form, “chaos” music

Indeterminate music happens when a musician creates a base melody, and leaves the rest to spontaneous chance and free flow of expression. Instead of the musician taking the driver’s seat, the musician surrenders to letting the music take the driver’s seat; take the musician wherever it leads. It was first practiced by John Cage and Brian Eno say some, but this type of creative expression has been around since the first music was created.

In the mid- and then late 1900s, it has been made into somewhat of a classification of its own. Indeterminate music, a “composing approach in which some aspects of a musical work are left open to chance or to the interpreter’s free choice”, according to Wikipedia.

With that, here is an attempt to create some form around it. First you have the music piece itself. This music can itself take on its own life and expression around its main themes – deter, detract, explore outside of its originating themes, chordal structure and basic musical patterns – and then later return to those main themes. In fact, the whole idea of “indeterminacy” means it does not necessarily need to return to the original themes. It just seems to help the listener connect to the music more effectively, to hear some semblance of familiarity with the musical score.

Systems based indeterminate sound seems to have its own characteristics and tendencies. It takes advantage of all the ways of changing an original score. These include:

  1. Modulate
  2. Reverberations
  3. Delay
  4. Compress
  5. Distortion

A truly indeterminate music piece can not only deter off the main themes, but it also may modulate, reverberate, delay, compress, and distort at any given part of the music piece. This indeterminacy might have a connection with the concept of “chaos jazz” I’ve discussed in previous blogs entries on Kotojazz; e.g., Li Pui Ming’s style of jazz.

Chaos variations of known music scores have been a topic of intrigue at various times and places. For example, Diana Dabby an MIT graduate in electrical engineering sought to make the connection between music and math, including using “math to create new musical ideas.” Beyond that, using math to generate inspiration and far reaching creativity. “The principles of her work have now been used to create new dance “chaography” and even a chaotic remix of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,’ according to a 2013 article about her in t he Boston Globe (see “What a little chaos does for music”). Her works refer back to Ilya Prigogine’s “chaos theory” in physics and mathematics. The article says that in mathematics, “‘chaos’ is actually the result of a system that is evolving according to set rules”, even though it often does not appear that way. The reason chaotic systems seem so unpredictable and random is that they are “sensitive to slight changes in initial conditions, commonly referred to as the butterfly effect”. So too, the “butterfly effect” applies to music as well. These are the makings of the “nonlinear dynamics”, as explained in the article by Dabby’s associate and University of Colorado, Boulder professor Liz Bradley. Just as musical expression challenges people to explore their deepest most personal secrets, music will find its way to unleash all of it and more. So in this sense, it is a reflection of our self awareness and what I believe we refer to as spirituality.

 

 

 

 

Koto Jazz Tunes 90: 2 Originals “Represent the West” @ Sangre de Cristo

Another stroke of luck. In January – March 2017 two of my original Kotojazz tunes are recognized as “Representing the West” at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center annual exhibit. These are pure new age Americana folk songs. “Snow Blossoms” was inspired by the blue violets peeking through melting snow on a sunny winter day along Boulder Creek trail in  Boulder, Colorado. “Windy Kansas Wheat Fields” was inspired by strong wind blowing over fields of grass and wheat creating a steady undulating flow like ocean waves. You can see the wind blowing through wheat fields in eastern Colorado and Kansas. Both feed our souls, in their simplicity and stillness (snow blossoms) and their awesome enduring power (windy Kansas wheat fields).

I am reminded that the “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it; you know neither from where it comes nor to where it goes, and so it is with the Spirit.”

Previews of these songs are available here:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chriskenjibeer5

 

metamorph senses (new CD release & a koto jazz tune)

This new CD mostly live production was crazy, experimental fun – anchored by a few George Winston covers, a touch of Narada/ Silver Wave- style new age, a koto jazz tune, and some “off the beaten path”, eclectic wacko improvisations . . . and you have a metamorphosis of the senses –

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/chriskenjibeer5

metamorphsenses_final02

 

Namaste: Living Words of Wisdom

I like the term namaste originating from Hindu Yoga spiritual practice. Here are some meanings –

The spirit within me bows to the spirit within you.

I greet that place where you and I are one.

I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace.

http://www.livingwordsofwisdom.com/definition-of-namaste.html

 

Seattle’s Biospheres – Exclusive Connection to Nature?

Because “Amazon employees need connection to nature” (geekwire quote). Yes. We all need connection to nature; it connects us to ourselves. Hopefully, parts of it will be accessible to the general public –

http://www.geekwire.com/2016/amazon-biospheres-will-happen-inside-giant-glass-orbs-company-building/

The most recent news as of July 26 by the Seattle Times is that there will only be opportunities for public visits. Specifics  are not yet available. Generally, the space is closed to the public, though much can be viewed from the street.

 posted from WordPress for Windows Phone

“Breach” – Live Koto Jazz & the SyntHorn @ The Royal Room; NW FOLKLIFE Next

Here is a live recording of a tune I first played at Stone Way Café’s Fremont Art Walk on April 1st, then recorded live at The Royal Room on April 13th with Koto Jazz accompaniment by Patrick Wilson on the SyntHorn –

🎶  “Breach”, by Chris Kenji & Patrick Wilson.

 

Koto Jazz on soundclick.com

 

Join me and Koto Jazz partners next week in Pioneer Square and Northwest Folklife –

April 29th, 7-8:30PM, Saturday, Koto Jazz @ FREDERICK HOLMES AND COMPANY Art Gallery, 309 Occidental Ave., Occidental Mall, Pioneer Square, dowtown Seattle; #206-682-0166.

May 27, 4:30- 5:10 PM, Friday, 2016 NORTHWEST FOLKLIFE;“Koto Jazz – Sounds On the Coast” by Chris Kenji, Center Theater, Seattle Center, Seattle WA. No cover

Koto Jazz 74: playing @ 101 Public House pub

Half time playing a piano gig at the pub in South Bend/ Raymond, the oyster capital of the world. And two Koto Jazz fans! This was so much more relaxing than a few weeks ago when I played at the Seattle Center. Ahhh, the taste of the ocean air , a couple koto jazz tunes . . .. and more oysters . …

Koto Jazz 68: Mini Garden

Simplicity is my theme here in this basic mini- garden in Boulder, Colorado. A total of only $10 was spent on this serene mini scene. While space is not as much a premium in the vast expand of this globally trend-setting Rocky Mountain city, I still brought my creative miniaturization impulses with me from the Pacific Northwest city life. This mini garden replaced a common area lawn that had completely died away.

I seek to capture the surrounding area using local assets such a variation of rock and stones, elegant spacing, mini flowering bulbs such as dwarf tulips and mini- daffodils, along with naturally growing ground covers such as violets and forget-me-nots. Being in this semi-arid region that boasts 320-plus days of sunshine a year, it also helps to add a few desertous (new word) plants as accents to the mini garden image. These include a bonsai-style and shaped juniper in the background, and an ornamental grass off to the left.

I used pinkish- white marble rocks to outline the plants and stones in this mini-garden. I also created a mini dry creek that meanders from one end of the mini-garden to the other to give it a natural flow. Finally, I made a pretty rough but natural lantern out of local stones and a brick. The beauty of mini-gardens is that they fit into spaces of just about any size. 🙂

KotoJazz 65: Song Stories- Endless Golden Wheat Fields

This song I wrote as a young teenager, which I have never played publicly until this week at the QCafe in Seattle. It is wonder I remembered it only recently.

This song story of “endless golden wheat fields” is about my time (2 1/2 years) in third grade and middle school in Lawrence and Hays, Kansas, respectively. Peering across the golden wheat fields of Kansas are much like viewing across the Pacific Ocean during an early sunset– bright golden hues reaching far and wide into the horizon, billowing with the breeze, knowing that it never ends even there, and reaches into the heavens.

And yet it possesses its own mystical beauty quite unique to the clear and simple way of Kansas. Its flowing, undulating golden waves of grain connect us with the earth and the mysteries of Her beauty. It is the incessant reminder we are nurtured by her every day, and we belong to her glory and wonder. It is a reflection of the people of Kansas; a kind, gentle, gracious people who at best are attuned to the best of who we are and who we can be.

There are many more songs I have yet to uncover during my younger years which I had completely forgotten.

🙂

Koto Jazz 56: Song Stories – Mount Index Ice Caves

This new age musical tune was inspired by a hike with my friend Kim. We climbed to the ice caves at the summit of Mount Index off highway 2 just northeast of Seattle.

The Mount Index ice caves were leaking typical eerie, echoing sounding drops of water melting off blue ice, which increasingly gathered and coalesced into more and more tributaries of water racing toward the opening of the ice caves. It is the beginning of the water cycle, passing beyond alpine lakes and converging with glacial streams and eventually, rivers racing toward the Pacific ocean.

It’s one of my fun trance-like tunes of quirky frivolity reminding of the simple world we live in and the majesty of the basic elements that give us life.

Koto Jazz 49: Haibane Renmei’s Shinto Message

The anime story about “The Charcoal Feather Federation” (Haibane Renmei) sends a deep spiritual message. The setting of the story resides in the idea of a purgatory type of state for lack of a better term (although this does not necessarily reflect the intent of the author nor is it wholly representative of the true translation).

This state is more psycho-social spiritual than an actual physical place or state that are often associated with western ideas of purgatory. The mindset of the main characters are all about relationship, giving and receiving, and letting go of the thinking that holds us back from attaining a place of spiritual freedom- freedom from the trappings of our mind’s thinking, such as self blame and guilt, and lack of self- forgiveness.

This is what makes the Haibane Renmei a must see. Every one of us has a place or part of our life- story and life- thinking that we struggle to come to terms with; we struggle to forgive. It comes in a form we may have long buried and forgotten. If we find ourselves being dismissive when reading this, we most absolutely have something we imperatively must find, face, and forgive.

The first step is to find it and face it. Haibane Renmei emphasizes the important messages we may gather from our dreams and memories. Then, having found and faced it, can we muster the courage to forgive?

This is the ultimate aim of a spiritual life, and I argue each of our lives. If we have not forgiven our self, we are not able to forgive the same in others. Thus, that part of us is projected out; becomes a cancerous toxic presence in our own life, and therefore among our circle of friends and family. The creator of Haibane Renmei, Yoshitoshi Abe, has a gifted way of bringing the spiritual life, including the progression into the next life, as interwoven with the life of here and now, a notion very appropriate for the Shinto tradition. However, it presents the current life we lead and the progression through spirituality into the next life, in terms foreign to western concepts of life and death. These are Shinto- Buddhist concepts, though Abe-san handles it masterfully.

Once we have forgiven the self, we free our self from our own mental trap and become empowered with the capacity to forgive. Often the “forgive process” comes from someone else, as was the case with Reki in the Haibane Renmei story, the girl who could not remember her dream, nor forgive her self. The story suggests a need for a loving catalyst, a loving person in one’s life who reaches and makes the “forgiveness connection”. I’ve needed more than one person to help me make my “forgiveness connections”.

That is the means by which we obtain freedom to reach a higher spiritual presence in this life and the next.

KotoJazz 44: “A New Dialogue with Nature”

My apologies in advance for this “detour” from art and the nature of gardening and koto jazz music. This “KotoJazz 44” blog entry is about the revolutionary nature of Nobel prize winning physicist Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers’ and “Man’s Dialogue with Nature” in their international bestseller, “Order Out of Chaos”. Though published a while ago in the 80s, it could not be more relevant than today, including the topics of this blog. As Alvin Toffler puts it in the book’s preface, “it is the processes associated with randomness, openness that lead to higher levels of organization.” In all structures associated with life and life forms, even social life, before change occurs, it is forced toward a non-equilibrium state and approaches a critical moment or bifurcation point where it transforms/ morphs into a “new path of development” that is not predeterminable.

This is also very true of creativity in music and art. It sums up modern music and art in so many ways, including modern jazz and especially koto jazz. Koto jazz may have some predetermined melody and style, but its origins are rooted in the very musical expression of nature. Out of the “randomness, openness” of nature, and our open, often random exploration of music and sound, we can connect with the core of our own Nature. This is the ultimate goal of Koto jazz music. For me, patterns of nature unpredictably and indeterminably morph into new patterns, at times interrupted by chaotic resonance, then transforming into a new efflorescent chime or melodic sequence. We are the heirs of this new perspective on art, science, and life.

Prigogine and Stengers’ views reach into all areas of our social, political and business life. Take the management theories of John Morgridge, the former chairman of Cisco Systems, as an example. Probably a key period of my professional life was having a sit down dinner/ interview with Morgridge back in the mid-90s. A key point to this article I wrote about him was about the randomness and openness of putting together project managers, engineers, creative designers, and others (without titles) needed to complete a business project. Over time, the open organization evolves and forms its own natural organization where at times the engineer or the designer leads the group rather than the business manager.

The way Morgridge described it in the interview is reminiscent of the brilliant book written by UC Berkeley professor Ori Braufman and Rod A. Beckstrom, “The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations”, and Braufman’s more recent book (2013), “The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success”. You cut a starfish in half, it can grow into two starfish. Prigogine and Stengers also “undermine conventional views of thermodynamics by showing that, under non-equilibrium conditions, at least, entropy may produce, rather than degrade, order, organization”– and therefore life itself. This is true of business, society, nature, music and art, with music and art leading the way. It is one of many reasons why we must support the arts– it is the very fabric that shapes who we are. Koto jazz tunes can offer the mind and spirit not just an escape but a solution, an order out of the natural chaos that precedes it.