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Minoru Miki (三木 稔 Miki Minoru) (16 March 1930 – 8 December 2011) was a Japanese composer and artistic director, particularly known for his promotional activities in favor of Japanese (as well as Chinese and Korean) traditional instruments and some of their performers.
His vast catalogue, where aforementioned traditional instruments figure profusely either solo or in various types of ensemble with or without Western instruments, demonstrates large stylistic and formal diversity. It includes operas and several types of stage music as well as orchestral, concerto, chamber and solo music, and music for films. Miki was probably the second best known Japanese composer overseas after Tōru Takemitsu.
He was a pioneer in the composition of contemporary classical music for large ensembles of traditional Japanese musical instruments. In 1964 he founded the Nihon Ongaku Shūdan (Pro Musica Nipponia ensemble), also known as Ensemble Nipponia, for which he has composed extensively.
Miki was born in Tokushima in 1930, and his first musical experiences were connected with the traditional music of his region. He had no formal music education before he moved to Okayama for high school, where he first contacted with European classical music. From there he moved to Tokyo, graduating from Tokyo University of the Arts in 1964. Immediately in that year Miki founded Pro musica Nipponia (日本音楽集団), an orchestra of traditional Japanese instruments for which he would compose a large number of works. He also began cooperation with koto virtuoso Keiko Nosaka, developing the 20-string koto and reviving the instrument's repertoire with many new works in a variety of genres and combinations, including five concertos for koto and orchestra. Miki composed his first opera, Shunkinsho (based on Tanizaki's eponymous novel), in 1975. Interest by members of the English Music Theatre Company in Japanese traditional music led to contacts with Miki which resulted in the commission of the opera Ada, An Actor's Revenge, to an English libretto by James Kirkup. Ada premiered in London in 1979 and was one of the last works commissioned and performed by the EMTC before its ultimate dismemberment in 1980. During this period Miki developed a relationship with director Colin Graham that was to last until the latter's death in 2007. The most notable result of this cooperation was the opera Jōruri, commissioned by Graham for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (where he had moved following the disbandment of the EMTC) and premiered there in 1985.
From 1992 with Wakahime, Miki turned to a pan-Asian perspective, incorporating music and instruments from a number of Asian countries in his compositions and collaborating with a number of Asian artists. Some of Miki's operas from then on – and notably Wakahime and Aien – also increasingly tend to deal with episodes of Japan's presence and interaction with its Asian neighbouring countries, often incorporating the use on stage and within the plot of such countries' traditional instruments.
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Major works by type
- Operatic cycle on Japanese history (日本史オペラ連作)
- Shunkinshō (春琴抄) (1975)
- Ada, An Actor's Revenge (あだ) (1979); piano score by Geoffrey Tozer
- Jōruri (じょうるり) (1985)
- Wakahime (ワカヒメ) (1991)
- Shizuka to Yoshitsune (静と義経) (1993)
- The River Sumida / Kusabira (隅田川／くさびら) (1995)
- Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji; 源氏物語) (1999)
- Ai-en (愛 怨) (2005)
- The Happy Pagoda (幸せのパゴダ) (2010)
- Other operas
- The Monkey Poet (うたよみざる) (1983)
- Yomigaeru (よみがえる) (1986–1992)
- Terute and Oguri (照手と小栗) (1993)
- From the Land of Light 光の国から
- Trinita sinfonica (1953)
- Symphony Joya (1960)
- Symphony from Life (1980)
- Beijing Requiem for string orchestra (1990)
- MAI 舞 (1992)
- Marimba Concerto (1969)
- Eurasian Trilogy 鳳凰三連 (1969; 74; 81), Japanese and Western instruments
- Koto Concerto No. 1 (1974); this piece is also the second movement of Eurasian Trilogy
- Koto Concerto No. 2 (1978)
- Koto Concerto No. 3 (1980); aka Concerto Requiem
- Koto Concerto No. 4 (1984); aka Pine Concerto 松の協奏曲
- Koto Concerto No. 5 (1985)
- Z Concerto (1992), marimba and percussion soli
- Pipa Concerto (1997)
- Requiem 99 (1998); marimba solo, orchestra of Japanese traditional instruments
- Trio Concerto (2000), shakuhachi, pipa, 21-koto soli, orchestra of Japanese instruments
- Shakuhachi Concerto (2002), aka Lotus Concerto
- Chamber music
- Piano Sextet (1965), fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, pf
- Piano Trio (1986), pf, vn, vc
- String Quartet (1989)
- Marimba Spiritual (1983), marimba solo with percussion trio
- Time for Marimba, (1968), marimba
- Ballades for koto (I-Winter, 1969; II-Spring, 1976; III-Summer, 1983, ; IV-Autumn, 1990)
- Film music
- On the Road: A Document (ドキュメント路上 Dokyumento rojō) (1964); directed by Noriaki Tsuchimoto
- In the Realm of the Senses 愛のコリーダ (1976); directed by Nagisa Oshima
- Shirabe, 4 songs for tenor and harp (1979)
- Requiem (1963), baritone solo, male chorus, orchestra
- The Mole's Tale (1966), male chorus, 2 perc.
- Minoru Miki's Homepage
- Composing for Japanese Instruments Minoru Miki's classic work on using Japanese, Chinese and Korean traditional instruments in concert music, translated by one of his former pupils, the composer Marty Regan, and edited by Philip Flavin (University of Rochester Press 2008). The book includes two CDs.