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HIDEAKI HAGINOMORI [萩森英明] (b.1981)

Voyages [航海記] (2016, rev. 2017)

Notes by Michael-Thomas Foumai

I. Whale Vocalization [鯨の歌]

II. Southern Cross [南十字星]

III. Ship Wakes [航跡]

IV. Return Voyage [帰航]


Composed in 2016, Hideaki Haginomori's symphonic sea journal, Voyages, was composed for Naoto Otomo and the Ryukyu Symphony Orchestra's 15th Anniversary. When it premiered at Urasoe City Tedako Hall in Okinawa on November 18, 2016, the Polynesian voyaging canoe, Hōkūleʻa was Miami bound and in its 25th leg of the Mālama Honua voyage, traveling through chilly North Carolina waters. The world-wide voyage concluded with Hōkūleʻa’s historic homecoming at Magic Island on June 17, 2017. Several months later, on September 17, 2017, Otomo re-introduced Haginomori's revised Voyages with the Gunma Symphony Orchestra in Japan.



The musical genesis of prolific Japanese composer, arranger, and pianist Hideaki Haginomori (b.1981) comes from a musical childhood. Born and raised in Tokyo, Haginomori grew up in the sonic company of his father on the violin and his mother's piano and recalled playing under the keyboard as a child. Then, in 1995, while in the eighth grade, Japanese Pop music took the nation by storm and the 14-year-old composer with it. "At the time, CDs were selling very well, and it was a glamorous era for J-Pop," recalls Haginomori. "I used to compose J-Pop songs and have my piano teacher listen to them, but eventually I began to compose classical songs, and my teacher said, ʻWhy don't you study composition?' So, in the early fall of my third year of junior high school, I did." The first meeting with the student and teacher was cause for jitters. "I still remember how nervous I was," says Haginomori. "When I was asked what I wanted to do in the future, the best I could do was: what if I could make background music for television and radio." 


Haginomori studied composition with Makoto Sato and Norio Fukushi and graduated from Tokyo University of the Arts. His music has been performed by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gunma Symphony Orchestra, the Central Aichi Symphony Orchestra, the Ryukyu Symphony Orchestra, Vuxmana, and Ensemble Bois. His six-movement symphony Okinawa Symphony Chronicles was recently recorded by Naoto Otomo and the Ryukyu Symphony Orchestra and released in 2020 by Respect Record.


Active as an orchestral arranger scoring over 200 songs for professional orchestras across Japan, Haginomori's extensive credits for music programs include the "Sailor Moon 25th Anniversary Classic Concert", "Sword Rampage Dance" Banquet Concert, music for Asahi, TV Tokyo's "100 Years of Music," and NHK's "Red and White Song Contest" and "SONGS." In addition, he has arranged music for artists including Koji Tamaki, Junko Yagami, Tatsuya Ishii, Fumiya Fujii, Mari Hamada, Misato Watanabe, and Mikiji Ishimaru. Furthermore, he is on the board of directors of the Japan Composers Association and lectures at Senzoku Gakuen College of Music in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan.



Composers are drawn to the sea. Covering 71 percent of the planet and comprising nearly as much of our human body, this powerful connection to water is continuously manifested by the imagination of composers. The proof is scattered across time, from Vivaldi's La tempesta di mare [The Storm at Sea] (1725), Debussy's French impressions of Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa in La Mer [The Sea] (1903-05), John Luther Adams's perspectives of the Northwest Pacific Ocean in Become Ocean (2013), Dai Fujikura's Wayfinder Viola Concerto (2022) inspired by Polynesian wayfinding, and to Toru Takemitsu's Greenpeace-commissioned Toward the Sea (1981). The watery domain is a circulating ocean of inspiration, transcending time, nations, language, and race. Haginomori's Voyages is no exception. The work is a 19-minute voyage through a sonic seascape. Divided into four movements, each title conjures a course, bearing, and heading for a brief but transcendent symphonic voyage. 



Haginomori's orchestration mirrors a dialogue of the sea (strings) and wind in the opening movement. Marked at a still and becalmed Largamente, the delicate orchestration and soft dynamics illustrate dawn at sea. The doldrum is quickly broken with a rippling melodic current. There's a song in these recurrent string ripples, Whale song, that seems to emanate from beneath the wine-dark sea. Moments of sustain alternate with distant rumbles that become progressively defined and rhythmically agitated. The appearance of string glissandos (sliding between two notes) might be the first sign of the gentle giant. If a whale is sighted in this music, its fortissimo appearance is hard to miss. The voice of the whale then recedes into the vastness of the deep.



Marked Andantino semplice, the voyage continues with a forecast of pulsing currents and gentle winds. The music is whisper delicate, hushed; the dynamics hardly breach mezzo-forte. Winds take on a leading melodic part, and the strings offer ambient starlight with sustained flickering harmonics. The Southern Cross is a star constellation known as Hānaiakamālama, a navigational constellation that has guided ancient voyagers across the Pacific on their journey from Tahiti to Hawaiʻi. Hōkūleʻa master navigator Nainoa Thompson explains, "in Tahiti, the Southern Cross is about 45 degrees above the horizon. Each time you keep sailing closer north, it gets lower [to the horizon] until the distance between the top and bottom stars of the Cross are equidistant to the bottom star to the ocean, your home." Of the 50 states, the Southern Cross is only visible in Hawaiʻi. It can be seen close to the horizon and upright during nautical twilight off South Point, Hawaiʻi Island, off Maunalua Bay on Oʻahu's south shore, and off Nāwiliwili, Kauaʻi. Two solo violins and viola emerge at the horizon-like ending, emphasizing a divine trinity before disappearing into the abyss.



By the work's third port of call, a running theme is evident in Haginomori's voyage, the delicate beauty of nature's permanent and impermanent features. When a boat moves through the water, its motion generates waves and currents on its surface; this trace-like activity or "footprint in the water" is called the ship's wake. The sound of a motor starting in the snare drum and ride cymbal propels the work along with three bursts of energy in the winds and shimmering harmonics in the strings. Horns, the main melodic vessel, hints at music reminiscent of the first movement. In its wake, the trill-like oscillating figurations of the strings are present but fleeting, vanishing into an amorphous sonic sea.  



The act of returning home is perhaps a long-awaited but bittersweet moment, a return to comfort, but a departure from the peace of the natural world. Marked Adagietto, the return voyage starts intimately with strings. Sustained tones, then staggered tones, illustrate a re-entering. No instrument has the melody entirely; violins take a note, then the violas, then the flutes, and so on. The effect is a harmonic melody of tone color, a crew working together for one vision. Finally, horns and trombones take a moment to state the melody more directly. The moment of homecoming is unmistakable. Hōkūleʻa's return was celebrated by "a sea of people who densely lined the harbor's Ewa edge and spread throughout the rest of the park with beach chairs, mats, folding tables, pop-up tents, coolers, wagons, and umbrellas" (Star-Advertiser). Haginomori captures the same warmth and welcome of a homecoming voyage.


The score calls for a crew of two flutes and piccolo, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, various percussion instruments, and strings. 

© 2020 Michael-Thomas Foumai

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