Akemi Naito’s music is the art of a sound-poet- a sensitive shaper of images that touch upon memory, distance and a deep sense of longing. Naito’s musical language embraces a wide range of materials, frequently delighting in subverting our expectations through both the inclusiveness of her vocabulary and the unpredictably lyrical manner in which her pieces unfold. As we listen into the world of Akemi Naito’s intimate music, lush melodies and harmonies sometimes dissolve into the gritty noises of Woodwind multiphonics, Harp pedal glissandi, or the harsh percussive attack of the Satsuma Biwa, reminding us that her sublime journey is not without its occasional reference to private and profoundly felt inquietude.
In Memory of the Woods the deep voice of the Marimba seems the perfect vehicle for Naito’s soulful and passionate inner murmurings. In Voyage, the dreamy combination of flute, viola and harp, first used so brilliantly by Debussy, provides Naito with a palette that initially seems familiar, but later provides colorful surprises and a poignant melodic culmination that brings the triptych to its emotionally satisfying conclusion. Sanctuary provides the disc’s most meditative music, with the accordion functioning as a small and solemn Organ. The four short movements of Mindscape utilize the vast textural possibilities offered by the mixed sextet of strings and winds, the colors of the piece changing rapidly and constantly in the most physical music on this disc.
Akemi Naito’s musical world is also a tale of intermingling cultures and eras. Though her Japanese heritage is never far from the heart of her music, her art has also been greatly affected by encounters with composers and performers in America, Europe and the East. Months, Spaceship for Zodiac, in 16 movements, is the longest work on this collection, and combines the most disparate influences, incorporating the traditional Japanese plucked instrument, Biwa, vocal settings of sections of the oldest Japanese poem, Manyoushu, and a modern electronic sound track. Naito’s vision of the Biwa as “a spaceship sailing through the cosmos” is an apt metaphor for this fascinating composer’s own path- a voyager charting unknown sounds through spiritual worlds both distant and elusive.