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Abstract

ABSTRACT Ondo was written for my grandmother’s 88th birthday. The composition comprises six sections based on a popular folksong, called “Tanko-Bushi,” which can be heard in every Japanese town during the Bon festival. Obon is a holiday in August, when we return home once a year to pay respect to our elders and ancestors. “Tanko-Bushi” became popular in Japan around the end of the Second World War and was based on a popular song from the early part of the twentieth century, around the time my grandmother was born, and has taken many forms since; it continues to do so under varied contexts and the versions I encountered there as a child, while attending the summer festivals with her, would have been but a small sample of these. As I worked on Ondo, I tried to imagine what it might have been like to live through all of the changes that took place in Japan over the past century. I think of the composition as a commentary on the westernization that has been taking place there and on the orientalization of Japanese identity—as an act of harmonizing disparate values. Between and within the sections, I explore varying degrees of fragmentation as they relate to, or disrupt, unifying threads that run through the four main sections (1, 3, 5 and 6). Above all, I wanted the piece to be enjoyable for my grandmother to listen to. The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra gave a reading of the four main sections of Ondo on 28 January 2011 at the SPCO Center in Saint Paul, MN. Subsequent to the reading, two interludes (sections 2 and 4) were added as contrasting materials and as expansions upon the relationships explored between the diverse approaches to formal considerations in the piece.

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