“Fiddle Suite: Montana” is a piece about family, about traditions, and about the state in which I was born and raised, Montana. It is a work in five movements, written in a jazzy/ bluesy/fiddle style.
Montana is the 4th largest state in the USA, after Alaska, Texas, and California. However, in the entire state, there are fewer than one million people, an average of around six persons per square mile. The first movement, “Montana,” is scored very transparently, starting with solo violin, to represent the great vastness of this state, adding a solo viola, with a “cowboy lullaby” in the middle, and then finishing again with the two solo instruments to close the movement.
The second movement “Stillwater Gorge,” interrupts the quiet peace of the first movement with a jig in the 2nd violin which, later in the movement, morphs into a reel in the first violin. The Stillwater Gorge is one of my favorite places in Montana, in the Woodbine Campground area of the Beartooth Mountains. The Stillwater River, known for its fly-fishing, is anything but “still” in this part of the country. Centuries of rushing water have carved a great canyon into the side of the mountain, so when walking around the gorge, to one side of the path the rocks appear ready to crash down upon the viewer, and the other side is met with a steep drop off, ending in churning whitewater rapids with a boiling energy. I tried to reflect this energy in the movement.
The third movement is entitled “Walkin’ in the Water,” and is more of a personal nature. My parents love to share tales of an early “composition” by me as a toddler. They tell the story of taking me on a walk after a rainy day, and there were puddles of water everywhere. I apparently was marching around, singing a little song while stomping in the water that goes like this, “Walk, walk, walkin’ in the water, Don’t, go, walkin’ in the water.” (mi; do; so so do do re re; mi; do; so so do do re re) I have used this little song as an ostinato, and built the third movement around it.
The fourth movement, “Cherry Blossom,” honors the traditions from my father’s side of the family. My father is half Japanese. One tradition his family kept and he also shared with us was: in the spring, we would sing the Japanese folk song “Sakura” (which means “Cherry Blossom”) when the cherry trees would start to bloom in our yard, in our own family’s celebration of the Cherry Blossom festival. He taught us the words in both Japanese and in English. I have taken the melody of Sakura, and slightly manipulated it into a major key, and have used it as the basis of the movement and have woven it throughout the piece. To me, this movement represents the beauty of the “now” and the precious thing that we know of as life, and how important it is to hold on to the moment, because like the delicate cherry blossom, life is fragile, and the winds of change come unexpectedly and blow petals to the wind, scattering our plans and ideas. We must celebrate and respect today, for we can know nothing of tomorrow.
The fifth movement, “Peasebottom,” honors the traditions from my mother’s side of the family. Music has always been an important part of family gatherings. I grew up surrounded by music, but this was not the music of Mozart or of Beethoven. It was fiddle music. At every reunion, wedding, birth, funeral, holiday, or similar occasion when people were likely to gather, my relatives would show up with guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and/or a bass in hand, and there was always a piano where ever we gathered. If someone didn’t play, they always sang. We would seat ourselves in a circle and make music, learn music, share music, create music, and commune with music. One place where this frequently happened was at my grandmother’s very modest cattle ranch, located in an area known by the locals as Pease Bottom, named after General Pease stationed at Fort Pease during the Indian Wars. Pease Bottom is in the Yellowstone River Valley, surrounded by rolling hills and sandstone cliffs, and will forever be a special place for me. The piece Peasebottom is a hoedown in which I tried to capture the joy and exuberance of these family gatherings.
For those of you who have never been to Montana, I hope this musical soundscape helps to share a few of the reasons I love my birthplace. For those of you who have visited, I hope you enjoy this return journey with all of us! ~Korine Fujiwara
“It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us... There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.” Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species
“Entangled Banks” for string quartet was composed during the summer of 2008. Inspired by the words of Charles Darwin, it is a musical landscape inspired by five existing entangled banks I encountered while composing this work. The melodic motif C-D-G-D is derived from Darwin’s initials and God, symbolizing the juxtaposition of Darwin’s theory of evolution and religion. This motif is interweaved with notes taken from the song of the Varied Thrush, one of two migratory birds who were the source of inspiration for this work.
The piece begins with notes mimicking the song of the Varied Thrush followed by Swainson’s Thrush, migratory birds, two of many encountered in the Pacific Northwest, where the first section of the piece is set. Reclaimed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife for coho salmon and cutthroat trout, Tarboo, with its “re-meandered” twists and turns, cuts a path through a heavily wooded area on the Olympic Peninsula, next to the Olympic Music Festival grounds. Occasional patches of sunlight dapple the stream and the forest is filled with a deafening chorus of bird songs entwined with phrases of Beethoven and Schoenburg radiating from the “concert hall,” a rustic barn set on a former dairy farm. Adaptation and change mirror each other here in both stream and farm, as both thrive in their present states, altered from their beginning forms.
The Snake River winds its way through central Colorado, passing through the village of Keystone. In places the water rolls quietly over rounded river stones.
The polyrhythm of the chirping crickets and birds living in the protected wetland area are the only interruptions of sound. Dragonflies patrol the marshy areas, while large fish hide in shady places, and the long grasses and willows hide an abundance of unseen creatures observing the human who sits in their midst.
Usually a cheerful running stream in Summit County, Colorado, in this particular encounter Peru Creek was a tumultuous maelstrom. Having started a hike to the top of Torreys Peak via Grizzly Peak a little on the late side of the morning, our group of hikers was chased off the summit by an early afternoon thunderstorm. In an attempt to get below treeline as quickly as possible, we quickly descended without regard to established paths and headed down a slope of scree and talus. Having lost our trail, fighting our way through the wet brush of the thick willows as we were being pelted by hail as well as rain proved to be slow, tedious, and painful. We ended up sloshing through the middle of Peru Creek for a few miles at top speed while the lightning continued to chase us through the valley. The violent force of the swollen stream, the treacherously slippery rocks, and the angry black clouds provided us with more than our usual amount of adrenalin, and much laughter to keep the terror in check. Within the willows that whipped our faces and arms along the stream bank, we encountered deer, joining us in flight, though perhaps they were running from us rather than the storm, as all of us struggled for our continued existence.
Griggs Reservoir Park is always a favorite place of solitude for me in the city of Columbus, Ohio. Seated on the shelf of a limestone river bank of the Scioto, watching the river lap against the side of the bank, I was surrounded by sounds of robins, ducks, geese, insects chased by their predators, and a train in the background. Snails, mussels and mollusks were visible in the cloudy water that lapped on the edges, dogs barked somewhere in the distance, and the air was sticky and hot.
After a long day of hiking I sat by the edge of Elbert Creek, shaded by aspen trees between the two looming peaks of Mount Elbert and Mount Massive. Across from me there was a family with five young children who had pitched their tent by the creek. The sun was shining and reflecting off of the ripples in the water. The children were playing in the stream, studying the stones, the mud, the plants, and calling out to each other joyfully at each new discovery, just as Darwin must have studied rocks and plants and creatures surrounding him as a young child, leading him eventually to speculate further and develop his theory of Natural Selection. The sing-song happiness, the sheer bliss of warm sunshine on a perfect summer day, the sense that the entire earth was breathing with life, the powerful grandeur of the mountains and the simple curiosity of a child, all gave me hope. I have great faith that the inquisitive nature of humans will continue to lead us to great discoveries about our planet and the creatures living upon it.
Six Tasty Caprices for Solo Violin
Sweet Whoop Ti Do: the rhythm of the first few notes of this piece lent itself to these words, which stuck in my head and remained its title.
Strange Marinara: if Paganini and Ysaye had a jam session together, perhaps it might have sounded something like this – an Italian dish with an offbeat flavor, implacable, and without question, a little strange.
Charred in a Minute: was written in the hour just before midnight on the last night that I had decided to write. It should be played scorchingly fast in a minute or less.
Tangy: Simply put, a tango.
Honey Iris: a sweet love song, hearkening back to the 30’s and 40’s, a favorite flavor and flower.
Rock Salt and Bitters: an homage to stadium rock, beat box, and exploring the limits of what the violin might be able to pull off, given the opportunity.
Carpe Diem String Quartet
The premier American Indie string quartet
Carpe Diem String Quartet, in residence at Ohio Wesleyan University, is an exciting ensemble that has captured the imagination of audiences, the respect of critics, and is one of the most versatile quartets of their generation. Carpe Diem has earned critical
acclaim with innovative programming, electrifying performances, and a passion for audience engagement. Carpe Diem champions the music of living composers. The group’s eclectic spirit has led them down the paths of gypsy, tango, folk, pop, rock, and
jazz-inspired music, yet they remain equally at home with the traditional string quartet repertoire. With wide-ranging collaborations from Latin Grammy award-winner Raul Juarena to American singer and guitarist Willy Porter, Carpe Diem brings new audiences into the concert hall and revitalizes the chamber music experience.
The quartet is dedicated to music education and outreach, and regularly performs educational programs specifically designed to relate to students of all ages and from all
walks of life to establish chamber music’s relevance to their lives.
Carpe Diem believes music is a healing art form, and provides free performances in nursing facilities, hospitals, hospices, and similar institutions where the population is unable to leave the facility due to various health issues and restrictions.
Carpe Diem believes this can provide a valuable healing experience for those other- wise not able to attend concerts. These free performances allow facilities from
all socio-economic levels to take advantage of these programs.
Carpe Diem String Quartet – pushing the boundaries
Seize the Music, Seize the Day!
Composer Korine Fujiwara, a native of Montana, has received multiple commissions including works for chamber ensembles, chorus, concerti, and music for modern dance. Her work has been heard throughout the United States, Europe, and in the Far East, including performances at Suntory Hall, Tokyo; the Olympic Music Festival, Washington; Musikfest, Pennsylvania; the Snake River Music Festival, Colorado; and the Arts Northwest Conference in Seattle, Washington, as well as in numerous collaborations with the cutting- edge dance company Columbus Dance Theatre, Ohio. She has been invited to participate in numerous international music festivals, including the MidAmerica Chamber Music Festival, the Victoria International Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Focus! Festival of 20th Century Music at Lincoln Center, and the Summergarden Festival at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, where she collaborated with composer John Cage. She is a sought-after and well-respected adjudicator and teacher and served as an Artist/Teacher-in-residence with the Icelandic Youth Orchestra in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Her musical language encompasses a wide range of influences, including classical, folk, jazz, and rock and roll. Korine grew up in a family of traditional folk artists; at family gatherings, relatives played and improvised music together. This early experience had a profound impact on her musical journey. Her works often contain fragments, melodies and sounds reminiscent of this family tradition, combined with the classical language she has absorbed through subsequent studies. Her many artistic collaborations have helped to infuse her work with a rhythmic power and intensity.
Ms. Fujiwara is a gifted performer on the violin and viola, and holds degrees from The Juilliard School and Northwestern University, where she studied with Joseph Fuchs and Myron Kartman, respectively. Her other mentors include Harvey Shapiro, Robert Mann, and Joel Krosnik. Korine is a founding member of the Carpe Diem String Quartet, with whom she performs and tours regularly. Ms. Fujiwara served for many years on the music faculty of Ohio Wesleyan University and is in great demand for master classes and clinics throughout the United States. She has received many awards and prizes, including the Hjalmer and Emma Kivekas Award, the Raymond Cerf Memorial Scholarship in Violin, and the Fetzer Prize for outstanding performance. Ms. Fujiwara is a member of the music honorary society Pi Kappa Lambda.
Violinist Charles Wetherbee has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the world, including Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Canada, Mexico, and the United States. A native of Buffalo, New York, Charles gave his first performances at age six. He made his debut with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under Symon Bychkov, and since then has performed in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Russia, Europe, the Far East, Canada, Mexico, and the United States. In 1990, he traveled to the Persian Gulf to perform for the men and women of the armed services. The Washington Post called Wetherbee “a consummate artist... with flawless technique”. The Virginia Pilot said that he “...gave a performance of great conviction and emotion”.
A devoted chamber musician, Charles is a founding member of the Carpe Diem String Quartet. Charles is on faculty at Ohio Wesleyan University, and is also the artistic director of the Snake River Chamber Players, in Keystone, Colorado. In 1994 Charles was appointed Concertmaster of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.
Charles is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Aaron Rosand. Other mentors include Sylvia Rosenberg, Karen Tuttle, and Felix Galimir. As a recording artist, he is represented on Naxos, the Vienna Modern Classics, as well as the Cascade labels. In 2002, Charles was fortunate to acquire a violin made by master luthier Kurt Widenhouse.
Carpe Diem String Quartet
Charles Wetherbee, Violin
John Ewing, Violin
Viola Diego Fainguersch, Cello
Produced, engineered and edited by Jamey Lamar, Art Music Recording, llc.
Thanks to Phil Norman for assistance during the August 2009 sessions and for digital editing in “Tangy”.
Thanks to Kaylie Steel for audio assistance during the April 2010 sessions.
Fiddle Suite: Montana and Entangled Banks were recorded in Hamilton Hall, Newman Center for the Performing Arts, Denver University, August 2009.
The Six Tasty Caprices for Solo Violin were recorded at Audio Lab, Boise, April 2010.
All music composed by Korine Fujiwara.
Many people helped make this recording possible, but in particular, a special thank you goes to Andy Ross, for his generous support.
This CD steals in so delightfully with the sound of a solo violin alternately sweet and soulful that one cannot resist. It is the opening movement of the Fiddle Suite: Montana, for string quartet, and soon the violin is joined by the viola. If the piece is intended to “represent the great vastness of this state” as the composer says, this is no Messiaen-style evocation of awe; rather the scale of the place is imagined in human terms (six people per square mile, apparently). The composer, Korine Fujiwara, describes Montana as “a piece about family, about traditions, and about the state in which I was born and raised, Montana. It is a work in five movements, written in a jazzy/bluesy/fiddle style.”
Fujiwara not only has the advantage of being Montana-born but she is also that very violist in the Carpe Diem Quartet who modestly enters second. The five movements of Montana illustrate favorite places of the composer in the state. “Stillwater Gorge” reflects the energy of the less than still water in this location as white-water rapids surge through the gorge. But again the chosen way to illustrate this is through human references: a jig and a reel. In the third movement, “Walkin’ in the Water,” the composer shares with us a childhood song she used to sing (pizzicato ostinato in the cello), overlaying it with an evocation of the actual quartet members in conversation. The fourth movement, “Cherry Blossom,” evokes spring, but through the eyes of the composer’s father, who was Japanese. And finally, “Peasebottom” honors the traditions from the composer’s mother’s side of the family. Homegrown gatherings of spontaneous music-making were the norm, it seems, and this hoedown captures the joy and exuberance of these family gatherings. The Fiddle Suite is not intended to be deeply serious. It’s fun. What lifts it are the composer’s fine ear for what works and her assuredness deploying her forces.
The quartet Entangled Banks was written in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. It was premiered by the Carpe Diem String Quartet in 2008. It takes its title from the final paragraph of the book in which Darwin refers to the “many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth” to be found in an “entangled bank.” Fujiwara’s music, particularly in the first movement, “Tarboo Creek,” is full of slitherings, rustlings, and twitterings. Again, the music is firmly located in place, with each of the five short movements describing the banks of a river or creek. There is a degree of subtlety, of delicacy entirely appropriate for such micro-environments while a degree of thematic unity is provided by a C-D-G-D motif, representing the initials of Charles Darwin and God. Much of the music is quiet and attentive to detail, though the middle movement provides some much-needed energy and contrast, and the last provides some gentle ecstasy.
In both these quartets, Fujiwara and her colleagues in the Carpe Diem Quartet play with complete conviction, completely inside the music. A clearly deep understanding and empathy with the instruments (she is both a violist and a violinist) comes across, allied with an ability to write music in which the four players are intertwined in ever-changing ways. As a result the ear is forever tickled by beautifully judged music that, in Entangled Banks, manages to be sophisticated and accessible at the same time.
Finally, the Carpe Diem’s first violin, Charles Wetherbee, performs the Six Tasty Caprices, which were written for him. “Since Korine is both a violist and a violinist I wrote her a letter for the commission of the works,” he told me, “and I said I was looking for caprices that were both musically and technically challenging, so she took me at my word.” She certainly did. These six disparate pieces are highly allusive, flickering between many genres and styles, often in hints and wisps. The first, Sweet Whoop Ti Do, may make the listener initially think they are back in Montana, but things soon get more complicated. The remaining movements range far and wide. Strange Marinara is strange and haunting, “[as] if Paganini and Ysaÿe had a jam session together,” says the composer, while the third is a brief moto perpetuo. The fourth is an engaging and, by the sound of it, fiercely difficult tango, and the fifth, according to Wetherbee, a ballad “with a little bit of Ella Fitzgerald” in it. The set is rounded off with a tour de force for the player, Rock Salt and Bitters, “an homage to stadium rock, beat box, and exploring the limits of what the violin might be able to pull off, given the opportunity.” Rather more than the quartets, with their intentionally circumscribed ambits, these caprices show the range of Fujiwara’s compositional skills and make one keen to hear more. The whole disc is a joy, not least because it contains a very rare attribute in contemporary classical music: happiness. Jeremy Marchant