On Misato Mochizuki

On Misato Mochizuki

Of primordial importance to the music of Misato Mochizuki is the recognizability of a temporal axis underscored by nuances of colors. Very rare are the moments in which a basic underlying pulse, or at least an inchoate one, is not audible or palpable - be it as a subliminal presence, as a palpable beat or even as a triggering of vortex-like vitality. The establishment of an impulse or of a net of accent patterns sets processes in motion in which differently contoured elements of varying length and complexity are subjected to a development through the means of looping, whereby progressive curves of vectorial energy differing in density and duration are caused to unfold organically through slight shifts, infiltrations, juxtapositions, transformations or assimilations.

In Misato Mochizuki's music one repeatedly finds not merely moments of kaleidoscopic form-shifting, but also genuine changes of perspective. This occurs through shifts of position, extensions and shortenings, or through delayed "glances" (for example through the interpolation of an element into a previously introduced figure). The conditions prevailing between predominantly amorphous structures and those with perceptible contours, as well as the countermovement of complication and simplification, affect both the individual element as well as the entire apparatus. The extensively used means of the reiteration of certain elements guarantees that the listener will have a better chance of following and understanding the work. At the same time, however, it can help bring about a change of spatial perception, whenever one encounters a differentiated layering or a change of position within the whole.

These rhythmic-vegetative processes are continuously and indelibly interconnected with components of Mochizuki's compositional method that can be designated by colors that give impulses, that characterize, enrich or unleash reactions. Uncommon combinations of sounds, obtained in part through the expansion of the traditional instrumentarium (e. g. through coins, stones, emery paper or plastic bags) hint at the composer's exquisite sense of musical color morphology. Particularly worth mentioning here is the composer's extraordinary sensitivity for the tonal and articulatory establishment of sounds and movements, her intense awareness of horizontal coloration, but also the obscuring of tonal centers through vibratos and glissandi and the incorporation of micro-tones and a certain amount of noise level in the production of tones. The acute awareness of such nuances perhaps derives in part from the composer's origins in Asia. However, it would be too one-sided to trace it completely to this, particularly since these are fundamental characteristics which have long since become a permanent component of various tonally-oriented Western musical currents, including that of the French spectralists with whom the Paris-based composer came into contact very early.

When one surveys the works that Misato Mochizuki has produced up to now, one encounters several thematic domains and issues that continue to exert a fascination on her. Objectives are passed on, as it were, and observations are pursued under modified perspectives. For example, the underlying concept of "La chambre claire" (1998), just as that of "Camera lucida" (1999), derives from French author Roland Barthes' musings on photography. Both works took their starting point in the process of the endless reproduction of a fleeting moment, as well as in the idea of a panorama that is infused with life through the play of light. The composer employs aptly corresponding means to obtain this, such as filtering, extension, compression and the principle of looping a phrase or tone. The highly differentiated filtering techniques to which the ensemble piece "Voilages" (2000) owes its special sound reflect an optical phenomenon: in this case, that of shadow as interaction of light and object.
Biology and genetic research are other domains that interest the composer and provide sti-muli for her oeuvre. They form the conceptual background of, for instance, the double concerto "Homeobox" (2000/01). In this work, as the composer noted herself, the scientific proof of the close relationship among all living beings has been compositionally transferred to "musical organisms that share a common musical genotype." A comparable situation is found in the ensemble piece "Chimera" (2000), where the process of genetic manipulation provides the stimulus for unpredictable developments.
In a more general and comprehensive sense, one should also point out works with cosmological conceptional structures (e. g. Teilhard de Chardin's for the orchestral works "Noos", 2001, and "Omega Project", 2002), elemental problems concerning man and the cosmos, as well as questions regarding the fundamental elements and mysteries of life. Modern-day man's questions, theories and knowledge form the point of departure of Misato Mochizuki's reflection on her own compositional craft. The modus operandi that can be derived from the aforementioned spectrum of ideas, or which at least refer to them, are the link between her perception of the world and her own oeuvre.

In the works written over the past few years, an elemental moment takes on an increasingly important role, in addition to the aforementioned constants. This can be perceived already in "Homeobox", and is fully articulated in the following orchestral work "Noos". Much attention is lavished on the sound as such, on its unfolding and on that which can flow from it. Essential to the beginning of the work - a great crescendo of development and perception - are a long-held ground tone and the fifth, the primeval image of sound coming into being, that joins it as a pulsating vibration. The tenth which enters with an ostinato rhythmic pattern after 11 measures not only provides an unequivocal major sound, but also establishes a decisive sequence of impulses which gradually permeates the entire apparatus. The processes of intensification and communication which are thus set into motion determine the outer sections of the work. At the same time, however, the runs and fragments of scales that have begun to appear little by little are subjected to metamorphoses which lead to a process of depletion. This reduces the action in the middle of the work to a motion reminiscent of a chorale, and thus also withdraws to its elemental aspect in a dual manner: the formal shape that communicates itself clearly goes hand in hand with a sound design that first appeared in such an undisguised form in "Noos", and which seems both familiar and strange to the same extent. It thus seems absolutely logical that not only the intervallic scales of the beginning transform themselves into a gigantically extended, single glissando motion in the subsequent wave of intensification of the third formal section, but also the sound-harmonic aspect effective from the very start is led to a darkly increasing density with a powerful emotional impact.

If one looks back on earlier pieces today, for example on "One glance in Spiro's backyard", written six years ago, and in which comparable conceptional ideas can be traced, one notices some major differences: not only with regard to the virtuosity in the treatment of the instrumental apparatus which the composer has since acquired, but also with regard to the considerably augmented sound imagination and to a mastery in the formulation of the decisive processes. While there may be variations in the degrees of contouring or of the density of energy, while the formal design might follow different strategies, and while the determination of detail and whole with regard to color and articulation may point up distinctive pre-ferences - what remains central and constant to the composer's oeuvre are the observation and creation of pulsating life with the means of music.

Wolfgang Thein (2002)
(Translation: Roger Clément)