MARTY REGAN: Scattering Light, Scattering Flowers; Selected Works for Japanese Instruments, Vol. 3 (TrackList follows) – Aura J Japanese Musical Ensemble – Navona NV5933, 1:07:03 [Distr. by Naxos] (2/25/14) ****:

Marty Regan is an American composer who specializes in and cultivates the musical instruments of Japan. The composer says “My compositional work has been focused on expanding and developing the repertoire of contemporary music for traditional Japanese instruments and creating musical works that explore cross-cultural exchange. My musical works are hybrid musical soundscapes that reflect the age in which we live, an era based not necessarily on globalization, but on partnership based on global cultural interaction.

This CD is an excellent introduction to Regan’s compositions. Overall, the works strike me as western in some of the rhythms and compositional ideas, while the instruments themselves are uniquely Japanese. The result is a rather unique fusion that creates a vital wall of sound between the stereo speakers that is involving and unique.

The first track on the CD is Beyond the Sky for Japanese instruments ensemble. The work, which was originally written as a fanfare has been extended into a lengthier piece. It’s a good listen, and the unconventional instrumentation is absorbing.

Next is the String Koto #1, “The Spirit of the Mountains”. It perfectly captures a mountainous terrain with flowing water. Instruments include a 21 and 17 string koto.

The following track, Scattering Light, Scattering Flowers, is a work for koto and female soloist. It sounds more traditionally Japanese, as the work pays tribute to 14th-century Japanese vocal traditions. Phoenix captures the sound and mood of the mythical bird with flute and shamisen, a 3-stringed Japanese instrument.

The disc ends on a three-movement concerto called “Southern Winds”. The work was composed in Australia, and reflects the diverse weather that was on display when the work was written. There are the sounds of driving winds reflected in the wind instruments, augmented by the shamisen, a 17-string koto and some vocalizations.

This was not a CD I expected to like, but in fact I enjoyed the fresh compositional voice from Marty Regan and hearing the sounds of traditional Japanese instruments presented in this new idiom.

The recording is excellent, with pinpoint separation of the instruments across a wide soundstage. The recording is a bit dry, but that works very well for the instruments utilized. I think the recording choices made here are an excellent fit for the music.


Beyond the Sky
String Koto Concerto No. 1, “Spring of the Mountains”
Scattering Light, Scattering Flowers 
Shakuhachi Concerto No. 1, “Southern Wind”

—Mel Martin