shiratori, l’oiseau blanc

shiratori, white bird in japanese, starts with a river saying: i am river, i flow, i bring dawn and dusk.. je suis riviere, je coule, je porte l’aube et le couchant..

the river flows bringing life as it runs its course until one day a fiery wind erupts, burns and destroys all.

the river moans: he is shadow, you are shadow, i am shadow and my bed is empty... il est ombre, tu es ombre, je suis ombre et mon lit est vide.

not far away a burnt leaf is swept up by the wind high in the sky over the island. the leaf still carries within

the four seasons as it drifts slowly over the island. the island itself is floating into the sea. it is pushed by a thousand waves and guided by four of the founding spirits belonging to the old land it had detached from:

the dragon, the kirin, the turtle, the phoenix.

high in the sky the leaf encounters a white bird, shiratori, opening its wings to the wind and flying far away.

is it the spirit of hope? where is it flying to? will it ever meet winter or spring?

the wind carries the leaf a while longer and then gently drops it on the roof of a house where a child is rocked to sleep to the tune of a lullaby.

motoko was hesitant at first to tackle the imagery and the poem that haunted me as they somehow related to hiroshima and were painful and challenging to visit. she would eventually start illustrating them with her piano in 2007 and i thoroughly enjoyed our collaboration.

she explored every image and thought with utter thoughtfulness, reflecting and developing carefully her  improvisations, always exploring within, never writing down a single music note.

these reflections on a spiritual and emotional level remained the foundation of her improvisations throughout the recordings that took place a year later in 2008.

she remained totally free in her approach but for the introduction that she created specifically to accompany my spoken words, memorizing them and their exact meanings by heart.

hence her inner thoughts and emotions reflected in these improvisations, bringing both spontaneity and precision to her playing. every take of every movement we recorded in the studio was different and mesmerizing with beauty.

she also guided me step by step in the choice and pronunciation of the japanese lyrics.                           

danny naim was the recording and mixing engineer and gavin lursen the mastering engineer.             

                                                                                                                                                                   kamal

the songs

excerpts of shiratori songs

introduction

river flows one

river flows two

destruction

the four seasons

drifting

the four spirits

calling of the waves

going home

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motoko honda piano, kamal kozah vocals, danny naim recording and mixing , gavin lursen mastering

the musicians

Kamal came to me with an idea for a recording project. He had with him a poem he wrote and images he drew.

They brought back deep pains of my past and the tragedy of Hiroshima that haunted me, so I hesitated to commit.

How can one bring beauty to such a painful subject ? 

I also had to come to terms with the idea of permanence of recordings and that was against my artistic beliefs; I wanted my music to be ephemeral in nature.  

Months passed by, and with Kamal’s gentle encouragement I decided to be vulnerable and face the project.  

We worked on Shiratori very slowly, and it took two years to develop.

I drew the pictures that inhabited Kamal’s poems and let them sink slowly and deeply in my mind, gestating for weeks  before i would attempt illustrating them on the piano.

These images and thoughts slowly transcended the tragedies of Lebanon or Japan and took universal meanings. I started to hear the music clearly and It started flowing without hesitation.

I was ready. 

We reserved two days of recording at Westlake Studios in Hollywood and I played without musical score; the images were there to guide me.

This approach would preserve musical spontaneity. It would keep me vulnerable every moment of the recording as I explored precisely the images, thoughts and emotions flowing in my mind, translating them onto the piano.  

The recording of Shiratori is a true reflection and expression of myself at that very moment in life.

I embrace it and hope you share it with me.   

                                                                                                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                 Motoko 

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