Zen and Modern Japanese Music

      Chie Sato was introduced to us when she participated in the International Ibla Grand Prize Competition, which is judged by an international jury of twenty-five members.
We could not help noticing the concert pianist’s Japanese dress and bearing as she gracefully took her place at the Yamaha grand piano. Then silence fell upon the theatre audience.

      The first notes took us by surprise. They were isolated, intense, full of deep echoes; sounds that seemed to come from afar, lasting only for a moment and vanishing harmoniously devoured by the enormity of the silence.

      The impression was, that in Chie Sato’s interpretation, the leading role was that of the pure sounds which seemed to emerge from the dawning of the world. Now, thanks to this concert pianist, they burst into life.

      The sound was also the carrier of a message of light that illuminated obscurity. This Japanese music is really unique, in that one solitary vibration is complete in itself, just as a singular touch of the Japanese artist’s brush in a Japanese ideogram becomes an artistic detail complete in itself vibrating the paper support
It was soon clear that Chie Sato produced sounds that were everything: life, enchantment, magic, poetry. In this aesthetic interpretation, the concert pianist adopted a new logic: a single sound can contain everything in music, just as the Universe totally reflects itself in every single detail.

      Now, we can all understand the extent, depth and beauty of those sounds that modulate and live in the air; sounds that are in the wind, in the soul of the world, or as the Greeks would have said, pnéuma (π_____). It was Sound that touched the soul of the listener and made him vibrate.

     Due to this exceptional pianist, we are aware that music measures unknown universes of the spirit.
In this music it is not possible to find the composer’s sentiment because the composer and the interpreter are only the mediums through which the listener can perceive the voice of the Universe in all its beauty.

     It is therefore, a type of music which is made up of more silence than emission of sounds.

     With this music Chie Sato, expressed the essence of the Japanese soul, with the aim of achieving Zen and it is this accomplishment that reveals how she managed to astonish the public with her interpretation of this original musical message.

     In Japan, the Zen philosophy is present everywhere: in floral arrangements (Ikebana), landscape gardening (Shibumi), theatrical performances (Kabuki No), dancing, painting, teaching and religion; and it is also to be found in Japanese music.

     For the Japanese people, Zen is the Essence of the Universe and everything contained therein. Zen is life, light, sound and in one word it is harmony. Harmony which helps the musician enter into contact with the soul of the Universe

     In any case, while listening to Chie Sato’s musical interpretation, we realize that she is a pianist of exceptional value and talent, an interpreter capable of a very elevated musical performance.

     What strikes you most in Chie Sato is her perfect technique, without which she would not have been able to grant us this unforgettable experience. Our attention is captured by her dematerialized hands which conduct us into an unknown, metaphysical world.

     To quote Plato, one has the impression that Chie Sato is in contact with ahyperuraneos world, where everything is peaceful and silent, a place where sounds are stored.

     In a concert hall enchanted by Chie’s magical interpretation, she brings the notes to life: vibrating notes which seem to appear from nowhere, sometimes they run, then they escape: sometimes they chase each other, they pile on top of one another, they dissolve, to reappear suddenly sweet and charming, always capable of expressing that world from which they come: the depth of the soul, which is also the heart of the Universe.

     Chie Sato introduces us to a mysterious kingdom of sounds, and she acts as ambassador of a self sufficient culture even if the Japanese composers admire Debussy, for his Nocturnes, La Mer, Images, for the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and they also admire the European Symbolism music which dates back to the end of the 19th Century. Both European Symbolism and the Japanese Zen try to receive and transmit messages which come from far away worlds.

     Today Chie Sato interprets the following modern Japanese composers works:White by Shigenobu Nakamura, Imagery by Junko Mori; Per pianoforte by Motohiko Adachi; and Landscape by Toshiya Sukegawa’s and also Yoko Kurimoto’s splendid Windows.

     That evening, we were aware that, due to Chie Sato’s magnificent interpretation, Japanese music had found its own true cultural identity.

     At the end of the concerto, the audience of the little concert hall in Ragusa Ibla, rose to their feet to enthusiastically applaud Chie Sato’s performance. Everyone was grateful to her for showing us the importance of modern Japanese music. Most of us realized who was to be the winner of the first prize in the Ibla competition.

                                                    Gino Carbonaro

                              (Translation in English by Claire Thomson)