"The Full Blood Moon" ©2019 written by James Nyoraku Schlefer for string quartet, shakuhachi, koto and shamisen. The recording is live from the premiere on April 14, 2019.
Sumie Kaneko, koto • Yoko Reikano Kimura, shamisen • James Nyoraku Schlefer, shakuhachi • The CASSATT STRING QUARTET Muneko Otani and Jennifer Leshnower, violins Ah Ling Neu, viola • Elizabeth Anderson, cello
"The Full Blood Moon" is my second piece for the combined ensembles of string quartet and sankyoku. In the course of writing it, I realized how intense the music was becoming, undoubtedly a reaction to all of the tension and discord in the world today. Then on January 21, 2018, I learned there was to be a lunar eclipse that was to become a Full Blood Moon. Several of us bundled up (it was a frigid night) and watched from in front of our apartment building, as the earth’s shadow moved to cover the moon. The more territory the shadow covered, the redder the moon became until it truly was a full blood moon. The experience was incredibly exciting and, well, intense. A perfect match for the feeling that was evolving in my music.
Three melodies are presented at the start by the sankyoku instruments; first the shakuhachi, then koto, then shamisen, with the quartet’s muted pizzicato accompaniment. These three tunes, very Japanese in sound, form a foundation for all of the music that is to come. The singers interject descending and ascending half and whole step “Ahs” throughout. A section alternating Western sounding harmony and melody with Japanese heterophonic monody precedes the main section, which is fast and driving with complex polyrhythms and uneven meters. It builds twice to an intense climax. The final section, introduced by the koto, brings a sense of relief but uneasy conclusion.