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Niigata was up to its ears in snow.  Snow at this time of year was common…about 15 years ago.  But now, people had forgotten what it was like to have this much snow.  So when I arrived on Dec. 21st, a little bit of chaos was still ensuing drivers and pedestrians alike after the major snow downpour only a few days before.

I was excited to be performing at the end of the 6-month long arts festival, “Niigata Water and Land Art Festival 2009”.  The entire province was laced with almost 100 art projects: in small galleries, along the seashore, in old canals, next to ancient shrines in far off villages in the mountains.  This festival started in mid-July and incorporated artists from all over the world, Finland, Ireland, Spain, just to name a few.  The spectrum of work and ideas was enormous.  Our performance would take place in the heart of Niigata City, right next to the Hakusan Shrine.  It was one of the last performances of the festival.

After a good night’s sleep (I’ll show you the place I stayed later), Hisako and I went to the space the next day to prepare and assess the snow situation.  The plan was that she would perform outside the house, in the garden.  We had already assumed it would be too cold for me to play outside, so it had been previously decided that I would be indoors.  However, the plan was to open up the house and remove all the windows/walls…thereby opening up the division between the outside and inside.  The audience would be seated indoors, but they would undoubtedly have to leave all coats, hats and gloves on… We bought hand-warmers and open-fingered gloves for me, just in case.  But in the end, I couldn’t use the gloves.  I had to be strong and endure like Hisako.  And she proved to be quite an inspiration not just for me, but for all of us.

For the first show, at 2pm, the sun came out and we performed for 40 minutes, nonstop.  I allowed for a little break in my performance…space, silence… and used this time to go back into the heated room and quickly warm up as best I could my icy flute.  I’d never played on a flute so icy cold… and belive me, I HAVE played plenty of times in the cold, but this was the most freezing I’d ever been.

After the 2pm show, I asked Hisako, how she did it.  “How did you perform out there, in the freezing cold? You looked completely comfortable and at ease.”  Her reply, “I just ask my feet to move and to take me…and I follow them.”  In the end, she was comfortable, because she doesn’t feel the cold as we do while she’s dancing…however, she did notice her hands getting cold.  They looked pretty red to me…

Then, at 3pm, the rain poured.  The sky was black. Thunder, lightning. The works.  Katsuyuki and I wondered if the rain would stop for Hisako… We knew that somehow, her magic –her commune with the natural world– would have some kind of impact… we knew the rain would stop for her.

and it rained. 4pm

and it poured. 4:45pm

and it kept raining. 5pm

and the show began.

She walked out with an old-fashioned Japanese umbrella…it looked ancient, well-loved, and had a few holes in it.  the rain played with her and the umbrella.  sneaking its way inside, gently.

She moved, and floated, she followed her feet.

She joyfully played with the umbrella and the rain.

and I began to play.  the rain continued.

and then…she gradually closed the umbrella.


the rain acquiesced

and stopped.  just as we expected.

Hisako moved and the steam of heat evaporated off her in the freezing air.  She was a figure of our imaginations…

At 2pm I thought I had never played in such cold temperatures before. But I was wrong. Once darkness set in at 5pm, real cold enveloped me and my metal instrument.  No amount of hot air that I blew into it would warm the instrument.  It froze my fingers.  I felt that I was playing a hollowed out icicle. But this time, I endured.  Hisako was my inspiration, and I moved about the audience, playing in the space of the house, weaving myself between the seated guests.  I used the steam coming out of my mouth as a source of musical gesture, and let my feet help me to play.  I don’t know what sounds came out, I don’t know what people heard.  I don’t know what I played.  But the feeling was magical, if not one of the most challenging feats ever yet for me.  We performed, in sub-zero temperatures for exactly 55 minutes.  I never left.  I endured and remained with everyone…we were in awe of Hisako.  She transformed the entire space.  The sculptures seemed to talk. The snow melted before our eyes, the sky cleared, the moon came out.

Later, a friend told me that she has the ability to see colors when she hears music.  I know of this phenomenon, but as of this writing, I cannot recall what this is called.  It’s very rare, but I have met other people who claim to see colors when they hear music.  I asked her what colors she saw when I played.

“Pink” she said.

“…and… a vibrant orange… it was beautiful!”

Wow…those are the colors that come out of an icicle flute!  I never would have dreamt that, in my wildest dreams…

arriving just in time for dinner, Hisako took me to a great sake bar...

....where we feasted like Queens

the next morning, we assessed our performance space... this much snow was certainly not expected by anyone!

this old home is in the Hakusan Park, and the green sculptures, placed both in front and in back were created by the great ceramist, Katsuyuki Sakazume

sculpture by Katsuyuki Sakazume

a scene inside the house

the next day, after meeting with the lighting guys, Hisako prepares her performance space... yes, that's right, outside in the snow, she will dance


preparing for the audience. All those windows will come down for the performances (at 2pm and 5pm). I will perform inside, next to the audience... but don't think we're safe from the cold... with all the windows completely open, the barrier between inside and outside dissolves.

finally, it stopped raining and I got some boots to roam around with the sculptures before the show.

to me, these were like little green "beings" talking and playing together...

I love this image...the transparency

2 guys walking up the slope

others, getting ready for the performance

out of context: ok, so I cheated w/this shot. it was taken the next day, lots of snow had melted and the sun came out. also, I was on the other side, where the lake was, looking into the space...


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