Archive for April, 2008


Taiko in North America and the Dilemma of World Music Performance

April 5, 2008

I’ll be presenting a lecture-demonstration at the Evening Lecture Series at the Asian American/Asian Research Institute on Friday 4/11, 6pm, located at 24 West 43rd Street, 19th floor, between 5th and 6th avenues. Here’s the abstract:

Originally rooted in the Buddhist tradition of Japanese American culture, taiko drumming in North America has steadily increased in popularity and in recent years has been featured in popular music collaborations, movies, television programs and commercials, and a well-known video game. With this increased exposure, individual drummers and the taiko community at large have been forced to address issues of copyright, transmission of repertoire, and self-identification within the “world music” marketplace.

In this lecture-demonstration, I will chart the history and development of taiko in North America, paying special attention to Soh Daiko of New York City. From there, we will explore the role of the body within taiko through performance theory, a short demonstration, and audience participation. Finally, I will discuss Asian American identity and my own activities as a taiko drummer, highlighting the collaborations with Iron Chef, New York Anime Festival, Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble, and Korn.

Note: Drummers and non-drummers alike are encouraged to participate. Please wear comfortable loose-fitting clothes and bring a bottle of water.


Men, Women, and the European Musical Canon on the American Stage

April 5, 2008

I just finished a conference presentation entitled “Men, Women, and the European Musical Canon on the American Stage” at the American Music Theater conference. I finally got a chance to meet John Graziano, an esteemed scholar at CUNY, and William Everett, an interesting scholar who has written on Blossom Time and now looks at Orientalism in American musical theater. In any case, here’s the abstract:

In the final scene of René Fauchois’s play, Beethoven, the eponymous composer was depicted in the throes of despair. Deaf, dismissed by critics, and abandoned by his beloved nephew Karl, Beethoven cried out, “But, oh, to die alone–deserted and betrayed. Oh Karl, Karl, Karl! I loved you like a son–my only son! No child of mine is here in sorrow at my knees, and men will say Beethoven has no child.” Suddenly, as in a vision, nine young women garbed in flowing white dresses appeared before the abject man, announcing themselves as his nine daughters–his nine symphonies.

The depiction of European composers on the American stage was a recurrent phenomenon in the first half of the twentieth century. While each biographical production followed its own unique contour, generally related to the historical record, certain details were common to all: composers (men) were geniuses, and women were secondary, cast either as distant muses, devoted housewives, or anthropomorphized musical compositions. What is less obvious, however, is the emasculation of the composers themselves. At once elevated as geniuses, composers were simultaneously condemned as sterile, fragile, sickly, effete or simply unattractive. Tracing these ideas through three productions (Beethoven, 1910 play; Blossom Time, 1921 musical; White Lilacs, 1928 musical), I will suggest that this trope of emasculation mirrored the ambivalent relationship between American culture and European high art.



April 4, 2008

HAPPYFUNSMILE is keeping busy! We performed unplugged at Aruba, this cool Japanese piano bar in midtown (2/19). Then we returned to Forbidden City with the whole band (3/13). We’ve got some great gigs lined up, so I hope you can join us:

Saturday, 12 April, 3pm and 4:30pm at the Washington DC Sakura Matsuri
Friday, 18 April, 6:45pm at the Columbia University Sakura Matsuri
Friday, 9 May, 7:30pm at the Knitting Factory
Sunday, 18 May, 2pm at the New York Buddhist Church


KIOKU plans

April 4, 2008

KIOKU has been taking some time off after our busy fall residency at Issue Project Room. We’ll be performing at the renowned Vision Festival, held at the Clemente Soto Velez Center on 107 Suffolk. Here’s the lineup for Saturday afternoon:

Saturday, June 14: AFTERNOON at the Milagro
1:00pm Poetry Reading: Hila Ratzabi, Jake Marmer, TBA
2:00pm Jeff Arnal Trio with Gordon Beeferman (p), John Dierker (ts, bcl).
3:00pm Nabaté Isles’ Imagination with David Gilmore (g), Sam Barsh (keys), Jaimeo Brown (dr).
4:00pm Kioku. Wynn Yamami (taiko, perc), Ali Sakkal (saxes), Christopher Ariza (el).
5:00pm Mazz Swift featuring James Peter Lee and Vernon Reid