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NEXUS WORLD TOUR – 1984 – A DIARY, Part 4. 2nd Beijing Concert

May 7–5:50 AM

An interesting change of mood at our rehearsal this morning. The lights stay on and there is quiet while we practice. During our set up and breaks, the stage crew and visitors ask us about our instruments and provide information about the Chinese instruments, details of which we were not aware.

After lunch, I slept until our 5:30 PM bus to the hall. Concerts are at 7:15 PM. During my siesta some of the group visited a music store.  Bob bought some thin gongs and Bill purchased a keyboard string instrument. The keys are numbered 1 to 12 and you pluck the strings at one end. Very much like an autoharp but “twangier”. About 15 inches long it has a sopranino sound.

The concert begins with what is called Revolutionary Drumming. We now have four large rope field drums and bass drum. Because of the resonance of the hall the sound is huge and all the low partials come out. We play Palta and then in improv. It’s good to improvise again. The last time was Cardiff in Wales over a year ago? They are listening–polite applause but when we come back for the 2nd half a lot of people have left. Bob’s Tabla playing was good as was the performance. A lot of good things happened in the improv. Something beautifully strange and the communication in the group was good. I felt comfortable playing my C’hang or C’hung depending on dialect. (Note – My C’hang was purchased in Hong Kong. It is small, very light and has 19 wire strings, each supported by a movable bridge, the sound board is curved Koto like and the wire strings are tightened with a T shaped tuning key.)

A conservatory teacher was at our rehearsal with his son and I asked if it would be all right for me to play this ancient instrument my way. When I bowed the instrument he very seriously said,  “this is a new way, a creation”. It is proper for you to play this way. I stressed again that I played no melodies but used it purely for sound purposes. He assured me that it was all right. Another man hearing the bow asked if my intention was to make the sound of wind.

At intermission, a stunning woman from Vienna came backstage to ask for literature on the group. She said she had never heard a Chinese audience so quiet, following a tone to its very end. She almost refused to come when a friend offered her a ticket. She said she would never have forgiven herself if she later heard what are concert was like.

Most of the people who stay for the 2nd half are young. The hall still looks full because the audience is everywhere but there are lots of empty seats scattered about. “Music for Pieces of Wood” is well received. I also believe the African double bell piece was appreciated. Mbira enthralls them and when Bob shows the instrument to the audience after the performance, there is extra applause. Now, “Clos de Vougeot”. We smile knowingly to each other. The rehearsal was very good a great Hall for the piece. Bill sent out front and said the piece never sounded better. All the voices can be heard clearly. One problem with the piece is the blend. Sometimes on stage it is difficult for me to hear the other marimba. It is a fantastic performance. There is almost absolute silence during the performance and we moved as one. The last cadenza is really a dream world. The piece is well received.

The Rags cook along and the joint is starting to jump, relatively speaking. When we play the Chinese piece the audience begins to clap after the 1st measure. Rhythmic applause, a lot of smiling faces that disperse quickly. All we can do is do what we do, Scooby-Doo.

(Today we have a workshop.) A large group of girls from Australia are staying on our hotel floor. It is 6:45 AM and their chaperone goes down our hall knocking on each door. Knock, knock, knock, knock, “Getting up time” unquote.” Knock, knock, knock, “Getting up time. Patty are you awake?”,

The ubiquitous Mr. Wa. Stage manager? His own 4 door Japanese sedan and driver. Nicely tailored Western sport jackets–leather attache case. Today he moved a music stand for us. Otherwise it is difficult to know his function. No doubts about his authority. Kwang Chao was born in Hong Kong.

In a couple of hours we go to the hall to meet about 60 professional drummers who have been gathered to play for us. Sixty? National radio taped our concert last night. So too a fellow traveler. Heard a little bit of the rudimental drumming. Strong and together!


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NEXUS WORLD TOUR – 1984 – A DIARY, Part 1. Adventures flying from Toronto to Beujing.


Although “world”  is hyperbole, we did slog many a mile to perform in countries east and west. I decided beforehand to keep a diary which given the length the tour, became two diaries. I purchased one in Tokyo called “UNIVERSAL TAPE OF UNIVERSAL” a typical example of 1984 contemporary Japanese advert-speak.

The first part of the tour included Beijing and Shanghai China, Seoul, Korea  and Tokyo,Japan.

When my wife decided to type these diaries for my web site, she convinced me to leave the entries as I had originally written them. I wrote the diaries before lap top computers in cursive script and ball point pens, late at night or very early in the morning. The entries were often spur of the moment jottings by a jet lagged stranger in a strange land who was trying to get things down before memories fled. Thus there are errors in grammar, tense, punctuation, etc.  Never-the-less, their lack of literary distinction contains a certain frisson and immediacy. Further posts will be made as the remaining 270 pages are typed.

NEXUS World Tour  May – July 1984

Nexus members: Bob Becker, Bill Cahn, Robin Engelman, Russell Hartenberger, John Wyre.

And two fellow travellers, Jean Donelson and Joanne Todd.

May 4, 1984    Toronto to Beijing via Japan  3:30 AM

Bill and I sat together for 14 1/2 hours discussing politics of financing symphony orchestras and personnel problems. He is concerned that the Rochester Philharmonic will lose Zinman and be unable to replace him with quality talent. He is concerned that this will be the end of any potential worthwhile musical experience for him and he is wondering what he will do when this way of musical life becomes a reality for him. (P. S. The R.P.O. has lost Zinman.)

Narita is a welcome change to Haneda.  Is Japan more American now than it was 10 years ago? Lots of English on TV ads.  Crowds more demonstrative, The Narita Prince is an American style hotel–big rooms. My feet, from midsole to my toes were swollen like blowfish. They looked like overweight fatty women. They were hot and itchy. It took hours for the swelling to subside. This is the 1st time this has happened. I went to bed and slept at 6:30 PM Tokyo time–woke up at 3:30AM. Swelling down. I will have to stand and walk more when faced with hours of confinement.

I ordered coffee 40 minutes ago. Should I call again? I am in a foreign country. I called–he sounded slightly alarmed. I think he forgot. Just as I placed the period at the end of ” forgot” the coffee arrived–less than 1 min. from my call.  ¥495. In Vancouver I got ¥176 for one Canadian dollar. No I think one US dollar. I found my receipt. I received ¥16,000 for $94.70 Canadian. Is that ¥160 per Canadian dollar? Or $3.10 roughly for 2 cups of room service coffee?

Well, in a few hours we take Japan Airlines to Beijing. We arrive at 11:55 AM. Tonight in Beijing, a banquet. Russ asked if I would wear my new suit to the banquet. I expressed some concern about that. I’ll probably be eating food in unfamiliar ways and might spill something on it.  He laughed and mentioned the extra care one always takes with the new automobile.

When I arrived at my room the first thing I did was turn on the TV. I was looking for the baseball game that was being shown in the Narita airport when we arrived. No game. Saw some volleyball between Fuji film team and another team with only Japanese characters on their shirts.  The latter team won. During the closing ceremonies I heard Olympics mentioned. Perhaps this tournament was to pick  Japan’s Olympic team and the audience cheered in rhythm to a big drum when points were scored. Lots of young girls giggling over certain players. Switched channels and found a golf tournament – somewhere beside the ocean. Watched some fairly decent swings – many not so balanced. Then Isao Aoki came on. Saw him make par after a rather poor bunker shot  – dropped a 40 foot putt.  Seemed like an interesting course. Not tight, but very hilly. Not green and overly landscaped like some of our Architectural Digest’s courses but lovely, high above the ocean. The Japanese are crazy for golf.  I wonder how many actually get to leave the massive practice ranges in urban centers for a round of golf on a real course.

Read a chapter in ‘The World of Golf BBC” about William St. Clair of Roslin. I knew he was a grand master Mason from reading about the Holy Grail but I was astounded to learn he was a four-time winner of the Silver Club presented by the city of Edinburgh – the 1st golf trophy, and was Captain of the Royal Company of Edinburgh golfers during the 1760s. One of my favorite pieces of music is the “Roslin Castle Dead March”. His connection with the Masons led to a contemporary belief that he gained his skill at golf from witchcraft. Bill believed that Mozart was criticized by the Masons for divulging its secrets in the “Magic Flute” but could not give me a synopsis of the story. I’ll have to look that up when I get home. Scottish mysticism–masonry–golf–Magic Flute–Debussy –the holy Grail–Rosicrucians–Crusades–Roslin Castle–Japan–China–South Korea–currency exchange, a niblick to the forehead!

May 4 3:00PM Beijing

I noticed this morning that Narita airport is an armed camp. Chain like fences topped with barbed wire, armed guards standing at intervals of 200 or 300 yards on the side of the approach roads behind riot shields that extend upwards from the ground to a height of the Japanese man’s navel.  The highways that cross over the airport grounds also have fences. * (The farmers rioted when they learned so much land was being used for the airport,

I saw one woman in a kimono but everyone else in Western dress. Perhaps Narita caters to a more worldly group of travelers. With pleasure I inspected the windows of restaurants with their plastic representations of cuisine offered.

Window display, Tokyo coffee shop circa 1969.

Window display, Tokyo coffee shop circa 1969.

My daughter, Dorothy had asked me to price Nikon cameras and the Nikon F3T with 36–70 mm lens was ¥300,000. Perhaps the days of bargaining camera prices for the tourists are over.

We had a very fine flight of 4 hours to Beijing on JAL. Boned breast of chicken and mushroom sauce–tiny pea pods with the peas still inside–soba noodles with shrimp – sushi–a bottle of barely good Bordeaux red–coffee and custard pudding.  Guy St. Jacques from the Canadian Embassy met us at the airport. Young, handsome, polite, brief and to the point. Suit and leather briefcase. After immigration, met our stage manager Mr. Wa.  I liked him immediately –  my height–broad build–clear gaze.  A man used to work and confident. He is most important to us and it is fortunate I like him. (And he likes us!)

Our translator is a young girl with a smile. (Kwang Chao)  I must pause here to say that I had the television set on in my room while writing–a math class, in Chinese of course. The program has just ended and the music played while the test pattern is showing is Suppe’s  “LIght Cavalry Overture”. Now they are playing an excerpt from “Hansel and Gretel” by Humperdinck.

The drive to our hotel was about 40 minutes. Interesting experience. The world’s largest square. When I get the names right I’llget back to those points. We have tours arranged for the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, the Ming tombs and Forbidden City.  Our hotel is funky but not as bad as anticipated. There is a banquet tonight at another hotel and John has memorized a short speech in Chinese. He tried it out on us at lunch and even with our breakups he did a noble job. John has been here for 2 days and has eaten all his meals alone. He asked our translator if she would join him but she said she could not. Our lunch was very good–fish in black bean sauce–Chinese pieces in honey garlic–spicy clear soup with greens. Pieces of pork with tiny mushrooms and 2 varieties of beer, both very smooth and light. Most of the group has gone for a walk. I stayed in my room to write and rest. I want to bath and put on clean clothes for the welcoming banquet.


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ToruTakemitsu Vignettes.

Seijii Ozawa, Toronto, 1969

Seiji Ozawa, Toronto, 1969

During the fall of 1968 Toru Takemitsu and I met for the first time on the stage of Massey Hall in Toronto. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa, was recording Green, Asterisms, Requiem for Strings, and Dorian Horizon, all works by Takemitsu.  John Wyre was timpanist and I was principal percussionist. These recordings are on Japan RCA Victor Gold Seal CD 90-2-21.

Green needed 4 or 5 small bells of different pitches and I found old telephone bells and suspended them. During a break in the rehearsal, Toru approached John and me and we began to speak. I do not remember what we talked about. We liked each other and he visited our homes. I gave him the little bells as a going away present.

In the spring of 1969 we met again in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo during the Toronto Symphony tour. In Kyoto, Toru and Asaka met my wife and me at our Ryokan, took us to lunch, to temples and a traditional cemetery on a hill overlooking the city. In Tokyo, Toru and Asaka took us dining and shopping.

Toru asked me, John and the Lyric Arts Trio to perform in the Space Theatre of Expo 70 in Osaka. I went to Toru’s apartment and it was there I heard his hilarious version of I Left My Heart in San Francisco for tape and for the first time saw his colored paper book Munari by Munari (1967-72). Toru explained the cut out designs and how they were to be played. This was all rather heady stuff for a symphony musician, but it would not be long before events brought the revelations to fruition. After our performances, Toru invited me, John and Yuji Takahashi to stay with him and his wife Asaka for a few days in their summer home in Karuizawa.

Yuji Takahashi, Space Theater, 1970

Yuji Takahashi, Space Theater, 1970

On the trip north from Tokyo our train stopped briefly at a station and Yuji suddenly motioned for us to follow him.  We left our car and hurried to a vendor where we bought hot soba noodles and quickly returned to our train. When we were all on board, Yuji explained our haste, “These are the best noodles between Tokyo and Karuizawa”.

Toru wanted to show us a waterfall. An automobile arrived at his home and we drove into the mountains. Stopping along the road, we followed a small stream through a forest. It was a short walk to a cliff about 20 feet high. There was a lovely shallow pool of water at its base.  Two feet above the pool was a tiny crack running horizontally for about forty feet across the face of the cliff. From out of that crack came a thin sliver of water. The flow was so gentle, the water never left the rock face as it made its way down to the pool. There was no sound. This was Toru’s “Waterfall”.
(“Shiraito-no-taki” water fall down like a “shiro[shira]”=white  “ito”=thread”. Taki means fall. Trranslation by Yuji Takahashi sent to me via e-mail from Mitsuo Ono.)

The year was 1971 when Bill Cahn, John Wyre and I drove to Chicago to hear Stomu Yamashta play the North American premier of Cassiopeia (1971) at Ravinia with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra directed by Seiji Ozawa. The day after this performance Toru joined us for the trip back to Toronto with a stop in Ann Arbor to meet the senior musicologist William P. Malm whose analysis of traditional Japanese music were in opposition to those of Takemitsu. Malm believed the traditional music of Japan such as Gagaku was governed by logical formulas. After a very pleasant visit with Malm and his wife, we resumed our journey. A brief time passed and Toru quietly said. “He’s wrong.”

Soon after our arrival Toru visited my home north of Toronto where he met our son Bryce. Their greeting was formal and quiet. Later Toru asked me, “What is the meaning of Bryce?” I told him my wife Eleanor and I had chosen the name simply because we liked it.

Early next morning I picked Toru up for a rehearsal. When he got in the car he said, “Bryce means the centre of feeling. I will write a piece for him.” How he came to this information in such a short time, I’ll never know and I was too surprised to ask. During the next two days Toru gave presentations of Munari by Munari for composition classes in the Faculty of Music University of Toronto and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.  Bill, John and I accompanied him and played what was essentially an improvisation presented as Munari by Munari. I came to understand the work was at that time not finished.

Bryce and Takemitsu playing. ohn Wyre on the left, 1971

Bryce and Takemitsu playing. John Wyre on the left, 1971. Photo, R.E.

Four years later Bryce was completed (1976) and premiered in Toronto on 20 March by myself playing marimba, John Wyre bells and gongs, Bob Aitken flute, Judy Loman and Erica Goodman, harps. The title page reads, “Bryce, for flute, two harps, marimba and percussion. This work was commissioned by the Canada Council and dedicated to Bryce Engelman.” A couple of years later, after playing Bryce In Germany, I met Heinz Holliger who had heard the performance. He said, “Now I understand.” After a pause Holliger continued, “I think Bryce is Toru’s best work.”

Toru invited Nexus to tour Japan in June-July of 1976. I will always remember this first tour with fondness because Toru’s manager had arranged for venues, advertising, our hotels and transportation – luxuries Nexus rarely savored. However most memorably, Toru traveled with us, sharing “the road.” He acted as our Master of Ceremonies, introducing us to our audiences.

Toru on the Nexus tour  bus, 1976

Toru on the Nexus tour bus, 1976. Photo, R.E.

Also in 1976 Jo Kondo wrote Under the Umbrella, commissioned by Toru for Nexus and written for 25 cowbells. Nexus premiered this in Toronto 8 November, 1976. We made a superb recording of this work for Paul Zukofsky, available on CP2, 123.

Toru felt Toronto was a special city. He enjoyed the musicians, the way they played and their attitudes. During the years before his death, he made many visits to Toronto. In 1982 he introduced Jo Kondo to  New Music Concerts audiences. I heard again Jo’s predilection for cowbells. This time the work was Knots (1977) scored for two guitars, electric piano and cowbells. Jo recently said that Toru had  encouraged him and had been “a big help to my career”.

Takemitsu seated behind Jo Kondo in Toronto, 1982

Takemitsu seated behind Jo Kondo in Toronto, 1982

Toru assembled a group of Japan’s most dedicated and proficient players of new music  for his ensemble Sound Space Arc. (1.) In July 1988 he brought this group to New York City for a series of concerts sponsored by the Japan Society. The concerts consisted almost exclusively of Japanese music chosen chronologically by Takemitsu as a history of Japanese music. My wife and I booked tickets early as we not only knew Toru, but many of the players such as pianist Aki Takahashi, flutist Hiroshi Koizumi, Ayako Shinozaki, harp (with whom I had played Bryce in Japan), and my friend, the percussionist Yasunori Yamaguchi.  Sound Space Ark gave five concerts in as many evenings. The longest and most fullsome applause followed Yamaguchi’s performance of his solo work Time of Celestial.  Yamaguchi premiered most of Toru’s works with percussion. He is a very special musician and can make time stand still.

Just days before my wife and I left Toronto for New York, Nexus learned that in honor of its 100 anniversary, Carnegie Hall had commissioned Toru to write a work for Seiji Ozawa, The Boston Symphony Orchestra and Nexus. The work, premiered 19 October 1990, was titled From me flows what you call Time (capitalizations correct). The man behind the scenes whose idea it was to bring everyone together was Costa Pilavachi. At the time Costa was Ozawa’s liason with the management of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Costa would go on to become head of Decca and EMI Classics and later senior vice president, classical artists and repertoire for Universal Music Group International. His name is not on the score, nor is it in any reviews I’ve read, but Costa’s foresight and efforts would prove to be responsible for the creation of the most profitable piece of music in the history of Nexus and perhaps, among the most influential works for percussion and orchestra.

In my opinion, the best performance of Bryce was given twenty years after its premier on 25 September 1996. The original players were assembled in honor of Takemitsu being posthumously awarded the Glenn Gould Prize. Toru had died the previous February. His wife Asaka and daughter Maki had flown in for the presentation. Toru had many friends in Toronto and the theater was full. The performance was spellbinding. Unfortunately, the recording, though captured beautifully by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, will probably never be released to the public.

I last spoke with Toru while he was hospitalized. Bob Aitken called him from Toronto around Christmas time 1995 and we talked casually about every day things because we soon expected to hear of his release from the hospital. Nexus learned of Toru’s death the morning of its 25th anniversary concert in Kilbourn Hall, the Eastman School of Music. We were shocked by the news. Toru’s immune system had been weakened by his cancer treatments. His doctors had not prepared for this exigency and though free of cancer, Toru developed pneumonia and died.  Seiji said Toru’s death was a “scandal”.

In December 2010 my wife and I flew to New York City for the Japan Festival organized by Seiji Ozawa. In Carnegie Hall Seiji conducted the Saito Kinen Orchestra in performances of the Benjamin Britten War Requiem and the Berlioz Symphony Fantastique. Maki had organized another concert in Zankel Hall with Japanese jazz musicians who improvised on themes by Toru. The accordionist had played on the Seri recording Toru Takemitsu pop songs. (Denon, COCY-78624

I sat with Maki, Asaka, the wife of the accordionist and the poet Shuntara Tanikawa who had provided Toru inspiration for many of his songs. It was a good concert, as were they all, but Maki was now a grown woman, Asaka and I were growing old, and Toru who had always been our nexus, was missing.

1990-Takemitsu next to a picture of himself in traditional Japanese dress taken in1969.

Toronto,1990-Takemitsu next to a picture of himself in traditional Japanese dress taken in Tokyo,1969.  Photo, R.E.

These vignettes,, reminiscences were written at the request of Mitsuko Ono who is writing a book about Takemitsu.


(1.) Ryan Scott, Artistic Director of Continuum Contemporary Music, interviewed composer Jo Kondo in the Fall of 2014. During that interview the origin of Soun Space Ark was broached. Ryan may have been referring to this article when he mentioned that “Takemitsu had assembled a group”, ” for his ensemble Sound Space Arc”. Kondo strongly objected to this portrayal by declaring Sound Space Arc to be an independent group, not Takemitsu’s group. They “got together spontaneously” and made recordings of concerts and commissioned composers. “Toru was not behind it”.

Indeed, Kondo is correct. Soun Space Ark  was founded in 1972 by  pianist Aki Takahashi, flutist Hiroshi Koizumi, Ayako Shinozaki, harp, and percussionist Yasunori Yamaguchi. Takemitsu invited them to New York for the first  New York International Festival of the Arts in 1988. It was at that time my information unwittingly became skewed. I apologize to everyone who may have been negatively affected by my mistake.


Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Articles, Contemporary Music, History, Unassigned


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