Two by Four

Chamber Music
for nagauta voice, taiko

Two by Four features nagauta voice singing the names of stars in Latin and Japanese along with gongs/taiko played mallet-style with two sticks in each hand. The graphic-notation score is modeled after a Japanese star map from the 16th century.

Program Notes
One summer, I visited Ōn Ensemble in Mt. Shasta. Two of the members were raised near this sacred mountain. I wanted to experience the childhood homes of these Los Angeles-based musicians.

One night, Maz, Kris, Shoj and his dad told stories under the stars. I fell asleep listening to their deep voices. In my slumber, I discovered that my role as a composer was to discover alternate sound possibilities for North American taiko music. Rather than structure rhythmic motifs, I thought about patterns of noise. What if North American taiko music embraced the attention to sound textures of hogaku music?

I realized that Two by Four embraced the ephemeral quality of circulating stars similar to the member of the Ōn Ensemble  transnational artists who travel between the United States and Japan.

Two by Four hovers in a summer dream space, nagauta voice, gongs and taiko cross between the Latin and Japanese words for stars, between now and then, and between the listener and the night-mountain sky.
Byron Au Yong

Duration: c. 6 minutes
Recorded on the CD Dust and Sand, released by Ōn Ensemble, 2005
Premiered at Grand Performances, California Plaza, Los Angeles, 2003
Commissioned by Ōn Ensemble