Ariane Miyasaki played flute a little in middle school but managed to ditch high school completely (see explanation below) and ended up at Schenectady Community College studying music with very little conventional music background. She took a course called Music Lit and Style that started with Pythagoras and swept up to the 20th century, and everything she studied was new and delightful. There’s a moment in “Ruthie-Ruthie” in Frank Zappa’s album Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore when Zappa quotes an audience member who shouted: “Freak me out, Frank! Freak me out!” Those words are Ariane’s aesthetic touchstone. When she got to the 20th century — concrete music, electronic music, collage and acousmatic music — she found a freak-out home. Subsequently, she transferred to the Crane School of Music at SUNY Postdam, and now she is one of the first class of composers to attend the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Music Composition program.
This is a first for Numéro Cinq, original compositions by a new, young composer. We have two pieces with a short introduction by Ariane and excerpts from the score. They are both strange and beautiful and deeply touching. They will, yes, freak you out in the best way possible.
Ariane works mostly with what’s called fixed media — pre-recorded and edited material (using a program called Logic) — and combinations of fixed media and live instruments, also the human voice. “I tend,” she says, “to be very influenced by narrative in my composition, and voice lends itself to that very well, so I am sure that that is part of it. Most of the pieces I have written so far involve some sort of narrative, even if it is entirely internal and I used it only as a starting point to get an idea for form, feel, gestures, etc.”
This is a short, entirely acousmatic, piece from (I think) 2008 that really started out as an experiment in sound editing, but I still have sort of a soft spot for it. I guess I think it’s cute. All of the sounds in it, with the obvious exception of the synthesized bells, are derived from a single sampled tongue stop, played on flute. The title means “Robot inner song,” literally, though I guess I like to think of it more as “Robot’s inner song.” There isn’t really any meaning to the piece, but when I was sketching it out, I was imagining this robotic widget, not a cool robot, just an element– maybe one of the suction cup robots that fills egg cartons, or one of those big arms that sprays paint on car parts. From somewhere, it finds this simple melodic idea (maybe somebody left a radio on?), which it tries to emulate, with varying success. At the end of the day, it’s still just a robot, but it remembers this little idea that it had once, and it can keep that forever, or until it is decommissioned and scrapped.
Click the button to hear Roboterinner Lied.
The House my Grandfather Built
This is a piece for violin, percussion, and two-channel fixed media. The musicians are Ethan Woon (violin) and Jeffrey Means (percussion). Rather than having an audio track that the musicians play along with, I made 23 individual audio files that are triggered separately, live, and are designed to overlap. This allows the players some liberty with the pulse, and avoids having to hook them up to click tracks. This means that on each play through the audio files will be a bit different, but I tried to make them such that that is not a problem. The audio is made from samples I took around my grandparents’ home.
To explain why I wrote this piece and what it means to me, I need to make it clear what my grandfather meant, and still means, to me.
I was born in Buffalo, NY. We moved to LA when I was nine months old, and I grew up there, in Culver City. My mother and paternal grandmother were both killed in a car accident when I was eight. The accident also left my father critically injured and knocked me out for a while. Once my father and I were both back from the hospital, my relationship with him steadily deteriorated. Five years later, when I was 13, I left home for Seattle. I have not been back since.
About when I was eighteen, I moved from Seattle to my maternal grandparents’ home in Schenectady. After over four years of living out-of-doors, I was, needless to say, not at my best. I was very angry, and angry at everyone and everything. My grandparents took me in. They barely knew me, except from brief summertime visits when I was a child.
My maternal grandfather was like a father to me. Last August, the day before the first MFA in Composition residency at VCFA, we discovered he was ill. A few days into the residency, my husband informed my that he was terminally ill and that I should expect hospice to be at my grandparents’ home when I returned. My grandfather died five weeks later.
I wanted to do something FOR them. For my family. Almost sixty years ago, my grandfather and his brother and brothers-in-law built the house in which my grandmother lives to this day. That house is an outgrowth of the family and life that they built and gave to their descendants.
I have always been interested in small, personal noises. The sounds that are particular to any given person’s life. The pre-recorded sounds in this piece are samples taken from and around the house. Prayers of my grandmother, because for them, Catholicism was so important, the lathe at which my grandfather worked sharpening knives, right up until his last weeks, baseball, the kitchen, the washer and dryer, even the creaking floors. Any house makes similar sounds, but each one does that in its own way — like a sonic fingerprint. I wanted to make an homage to their home that would have a very real and concrete meaning for my family. Naturally, I hope it also is pleasing to an outsider.
When I say “The House My Grandfather Built,” I really mean the world he and my gran built; the family they dragged out of the Depression, through World War II, through sending all three of their children to college and my mother to dental school, through my uncle’s leukemia, my mother’s death, my own disappearance and reappearance. I am half Japanese and half Italian by descent. I grew up with the Japanese side. When a Buddhist dies, there are these memorial services at certain amounts of time past the death. At several of these that I attended when I was young, I remember the priest saying: “It really doesn’t matter — this stuff about what happens to me when I die? Where do I go to? Do I live forever? — because either way you live on through what you did. Your life and you actions don’t die.” THAT is the house that my grandfather built, and it is my hope for this piece — more than anything else — that it is enough to say “Thanks for that,” albeit inadequately.
Click the button to hear The House My Grandfather Built.
— Music and Text by Ariane Miyasaki
Ariane Miyasaki is a composer based in Schenectady, New York. She has written for a wide array of instrumentations, voice, and electronics, but at the moment, she is chiefly interested in electroacoustic and acousmatic work. Her piece “Bad Call Drink Me Bottle” for flute and fixed media was premiered in 2011 by Norman Thibodeau as part of a series of performances sponsored by St. Jude the Apostle Church in Wynantskill, New York. Miyasaki is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Composition at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She also holds a Bachelor of Music from State University of New York at Potsdam, where she studied music theory and history, an Associate of Science and an Associate of Arts from Schenectady County Community College, where she majored flute performance and humanities and social science.
While attending classes at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, she studied electronic composition with Paul Steinberg. She is currently studying electroacoustic and acousmatic composition with John Mallia at VCFA.
Miyasaki remains active as a flutist. She regularly plays with the SCCC Wind Ensemble and Capital Region Wind Ensemble, and frequently can be heard in other area ensembles and in the pit orchestras of local musical productions. Miyasaki studied flute with Kristin Bacchiocchi-Stewart, Norman Thibodeau, and Kenneth Andrews.
Ariane, it was a pleasure to read your background and what you have accomplished.
The House is a very poignant and lovely piece. Grace indeed.
(And the robotsong is funny.)
Ariane,I am so glad you are doing well. Amanda Sheftel(my daughter) and I last saw you in Culver City in 2000. We now live in Seattle. Would love to hear from you. MaryAnn