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August 11, 2005

Healing Score At Nagasaki Anniversary

Associated Press :

The score of a symphony composed by Robert Kyr, University of Oregon professor of music composition and theory, was presented Aug. 10 at ceremonies in Nagasaki, Japan marking the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb in the city. The work, "Ah Nagasaki: Ashes into Light," is Kyr's 10th symphony and was commissioned by the Nagasaki Peace Museum. The text was written by the composer and renowned Japanese writer, Kazuaki Tanahashi.

The world premiere of a five-minute a cappella portion of the work, "Living Peace," was performed at the ceremony by a chorus of Japanese and American singers. The symphony is a deeply personal work inspired by the aftermath of the bombing and suffering of the survivors. Kyr and Tanahashi visited Nagasaki in November 2004 to talk with survivors and "absorb the soundscape and sights at ground zero" said Kyr. "The fountain at Peace Park and a 500-year old camphor tree that survived the bombing represent symbols of new life to me," Kyr said. "They are an important part of the world that I want to express through this symphony."

The first of the symphony's three movements is titled "Light into Ashes," and evokes Aug. 9, 1945, the actual day of the bombing. The piece features two choruses that are physically separated on stage for most of the work. The second movement, "Lament," features various forms of Japanese chanting and taiko drumming. "Taiko" (literally meaning "large, fat drum") refers to both the drum itself and a powerful, spellbinding style of rhythmic drumming.

The final movement is "Ashes into Light," the reverse of the first movement, which emphasizes healing and peace-making. The work is unique in the world of symphonic music due to its interweaving of English and Japanese text in counterpoint with each other along with a blending of Western and Japanese styles. "Every aspect of the work is intercultural," Kyr said.

In about two years the full symphony will receive its premiere by a variety of Japanese and American ensembles that will give performances in both Japan and the United States, Kyr said. Since Kyr joined the Oregon faculty in 1990, he has earned numerous international awards, grants and composer-in-residence appointments at universities and festivals worldwide.

Prestigious ensembles routinely record his music, such as Revalia, a men's chamber choir from Estonia that premiered his "Veni Creator Spiritus" at the Tallinn International Choral Festival in April 2005. Currently, Kyr is completing a commission for Chanticleer, the Grammy Award-winning group. The work is titled "Eternity's Sunrise," and is a setting for several texts by mystical poet William Blake.

Posted by acapnews at August 11, 2005 11:33 PM