天上 の 蒼 Tenjo No Ao, translated from Japanese, means ‘Azure of the Heavens’. This is the title of a new project that I have had the immense pleasure of putting together with two of my favourite musicians: Kaoru Watanabe (NY) and Sarah Pagé (QC).
Tenjo No Ao is a manifestation of sounds alternately celestial and terrestrial, invoking gagaku and other traditional music of Japan, transformed through prisms of original composition, textural improvisation, acoustic spatialization and electronic manipulation. We will be premiering Tenjo No Ao in the incredible acoustic space of the Saint Enfant Jésus church as part of the 2022 Festival des musiciens du monde.
Kaoru Watanabe and I have known each other for 20 years and we’ve collaborated as a duo as well as with LA-based On Ensemble. We first met on Sado Island while I was attending an intensive, week-long workshop organized by the group Kodo. Kaoru was already on track to his career as a member of the ensemble. Since establishing himself as as a solo performer on Japanese flutes and percussion, composer and improviser once he left the group several years after I met him, he has become one of the most interesting and ground-breaking musicians working in the field of Japanese music worldwide. When I recorded my first solo project in 2009, Kaoru was one of the first musicians I contacted and since then our collaborations have grown increasingly important and impactful on me as a musician.
Sarah Pagé and I have only known each other since 2020. I was so moved by her solo album Dose Curves that I felt compelled to write to her and propose a collaboration. We began sharing recordings long-distance, throughout the worst of the pandemic, and these exchanges became a bright creative spark during this difficult period. We share a fascination with multiple genres of music, from our training as classical musicians, our work in the improvised and experimental music scenes in Montreal and our passions for both Japanese music and Indian music. By truly weird coincidence, we discovered that we grew-up in the same neighbourhood, attended virtually all the same schools, that our families knew each for two generations and yet we had never met or played together as musicians before the pandemic. Sarah is one of Montreal’s most interesting and creative musicians, transforming the sound of her harp and koto with hand-crafted electronic treatments and production techniques.