November 24, 2017
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SHEET MUSIC: Ballades for Koto Solo: Vol. 2, “Spring”, Minoru Miki
While studying in Japan, I attended a Pro Musica Nipponia concert. This ensemble, founded by Minoru Miki, unites traditional Japanese instruments with contemporary music and one of the first pieces on their concert was a koto ensemble. This was the first time I had ever heard this instrument live and when I listened, I imagined that music being played on marimba. When I later met Minoru Miki to talk about his marimba compositions, I also asked him about his works for koto and my interest in arranging them for the marimba. He graciously approved and suggested his Ballades for Koto Solo compositions.

I then met with Akemi Yamada, the principal koto player with Pro Musica Nipponia. Ms. Yamada has recorded all four volumes of Miki's Ballades and was very willing to help me understand more about koto. She demonstrated various movements of these works and explained the intricate markings and notations of koto music as well as the different playing techniques for the koto. Through this demonstration and my own experimentations on the marimba, I have tried to emulate the bends and slides of the koto through different playing areas and grace notes on the marimba.

The various glisses, grace notes and embellishments are meant to emulate the unique sounds created in the original koto works. Miki has heard my koto arrangements and has given his approval for their publication and performance.

- Brian Zator

Recordings of the original work can be found on:
Nami Record WWCC-7307 & 7308 – This is a 2-CD Set
Minoru Miki "Ballades for Koto Solo" (all 20 pieces)
Akemi Yamada, Koto Soloist


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