Archive for October, 2013

The Legend of Hagoromo by Keigo Fujii

A heavenly maiden, who comes form a place where there is an absolute eternal world, flies again to the heavens from the earth.
– Keigo Fujii, The Legend of Hagoromo

Written in 1992, The Legend of Hagoromo is a single movement tour-de-force for solo guitar.  I first heard it in 1998 at the International Festival of Guitar in Cordoba, Spain.  A young woman performed it to close the student concert, and I was blown away.  Never had I heard such sounds come out of the guitar, nor a piece of 20+ minutes.  Upon my return to the US, I ordered a score, and I quickly realized that this piece would take time.  Written on two staffs and in a different tuning, I was out of my league, though I vowed it would be done.

I carried the score for years and I actually had to order the score twice as I always kept it close at hand, but when fire ravaged my home in 2007, my first score was lost.  After realizing my family and I would survive this chaotic part of our lives, I decided that I needed to finally learn and perform the piece, as life is short and I would regret not sharing my thoughts on The Legend of Hagoromo.

Hagoromo by Charles Schweigert

Hagoromo by Charles Schweigert

I learned most of the piece in the summer of 2012, but had to put it down when the 2012-2013 Season began.  I picked it up again in June 2013 and practiced and practiced.  I began touring the work as part of my ‘Music of the East & West’, on my Hwy 101 Tour in August and September of this year through Oregon and Northern California; the response was awesome.

After the opening concert in Astoria, Oregon, a visual artist, Charles Schweigert, invited me to a gallery to see a work that he created also inspired by the Hagoromo Legend.  I was very moved by his painting, and he by my performance that he gave me the rights to use it on programs and elsewhere.   The painting represents the moment just after the young heavenly maiden finds and puts on her magical robe of feathers (hagoromo) and is about to return to the heavens.

Legend of symbols for Hagoromo

Legend of symbols for Hagoromo

The guitar work requires a scoradatura (alternate) tuning of D-A-D-G-A-D, pronounced dad-gad in guitar circles.  This tuning is very popular in folk music, but reading music notation in it is not typical.  The piece also requires an immense amount of extended techniques (techniques for creating sounds beyond the standards), including brushing the strings with the right hand while playing a left hand melody, reverse rasqueado, scratching the string in a koto-like manner, left hand strumming, Bartok pizzicatto.  See the diagram at right.

Here’s an impromptu video with a camera on my head of the end of the work:

A summary of the program note by maestro Keigo Fujii:

The Legend of Hagoromo has many variations throughout the world.  I believe that people since long ago felt some mystery with the cosmos and that many of them tried to fly to the heavens.  Thus the feeling of flying to the heavens is basic to this old story and can be seen in many other international legends.  The music which I composed is based on a 16-bar song by Hiroshi Yamanoha (d. 1991) on the story of the legend; hence the title. 

The song by Mr. Yamanoha is in the old traditional Okinawan mode.  I sometimes used this mode for my piece but I didn’t strictly adhere to it.  Rather, I used it as a vehicle to help me compose this music.  For me the flying heavenly maiden and the composer Mr. Yamanoha sometimes overlap in this piece.   The work is dedicated to friend and master guitarist David Russell. 

Yes, written for David Russel!  Though, I do not have any information on whether Mr. Russell has performed the work.

Upcoming performances of me performing the work include 10/22 – Cambridge, 10/27 – Boston, 11/3 – Duxbury.  I will be recording it in November 2013 and I am planning for a spring 2014 release.