Strands – Program Notes


Strands has two movements. The tempo markings are “calm” for the first and “vivid” for the second. The first movement starts with buzzing tremolos played on the koto. While executing the tremolos with the right hand the koto player pushes down and releases the strings with the left hand, creating a bending of the pitches, a particular characteristic of koto technique. Several silences punctuate the sequence of koto melodies. About half way through the piece, the trombone appears, briefly at first, but then with a long didjeridoo like sound which requires the player to practice a technique called circular breathing in which he breathes in air through his nostrils while simultaneously releasing air that he had kept in his mouth into the instrument. Toward the end of the movement the trombone takes over the leading role.

The second movement is more concise than the first. The music is driving and energetic and sometimes is tongue-in-cheek in character. In contrast to the first movement, both instruments interweave throughout as if engaging in a conversation. In the end the piece circles back to its beginning evoking the opening sounds without a formal recapitulation.

(Terry Quinn, 2000)


In two movements, Strands, for koto and trombone, celebrates the wealth of subtle relationships between the various modes of intonation possible on the two instruments. Strands simultaneously explores the enormous contrast between their sound characteristics. The first movement can be characterized as a toccata the second one as a perpetual canon. The composition employs various extended playing techniques that make it a show piece for virtuoso interpreters. Due to the flexibility of the compositional process, Strands sometimes leans toward sounds associated with traditional materials for the two instruments. At other times the instruments seem to pull each other into their corresponding realms, imitating and extending each others' sounds.

(Stefan Hakenberg, 2006)