Mei (1962)

Kazuo Fukushima (1930-)

Program note written by Jacob Farmer

One movement (later a part of a three movement piece)

Approximate Performance Time:
6 minutes

Advanced – appropriate for college undergraduates 

Nina Assimakopoulos. Mei. AMP Recordings, 2015. MP3.

Source Article:
Lee, Chung-Lin. “Analysis and Interpretation of Kazuo Fukushima’s Solo Flute Music.” Order No. 3431727 University of Washington, 2010. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 26 Sep. 2016.

Kazuo Fukushima is a Japanese composer born in 1930, a significant time frame in Japanese described as “the craziest years in Japanese history.” With his country in chaos after being defeated World War II, and the loss of so many friends and family to the war, Fukushima wrote about being more firmly aware of death. This common theme is seen in all of his compositions, with his tone growing darker through the years. He had no formal training or education, but grew up listening to American forces radio during the US occupation from 1945-1952 which became his source of western music. 

Piece Information:
Fukushima’s Mei was originally published as the second movement of his previous work, Hi-kyo (flying mirror) for flute, piano, percussion and strings. Now it is known as a flute solo dedicated to Wolfgang Steinecke and flutist, Severino Gazzelloni. Gazzelloni premiered the piece in Teatro La Fenice on April 23rd, 1962. In the preface of Mei, it says “the Chinese character of Mei is written as 冥, meaning dark, dim, and intangible.” In the original Chinese translation, Mei can stand for the world of death. It is believed in some Asian cultures that the sounds of a flute can reach this world of death along with our own world. This cultural concept is crucial in understanding the meaning behind this piece. Mei utilizes contemporary extended techniques such as portamento, quarter-tones, flutter-tonguing, key clicks, and multiphonics.