Mari Kimura on Extending the Limits of Virtuosity

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Japanese violinist and composer Mari Kimura has spent her career pushing the limits of sonic possibility. The subharmonic technique that Kimura pioneered enables her to extend the range of her instrument by a full octave lower than the lowest (G) string. She was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 2010, teaches Interactive Computer Music Performance at Juilliard and has served as composer-in-residence at IRCAM. She's also the founding director of the Future Music Lab at the annual Atlantic Music Festival.

Mari Kimura writes the following of her Mixtape, which she titles "Impossibly Organic":

As a violinist-composer myself, I like music that is performer-oriented, either written by composers who are performers or improvisors themselves, composers who used to play an instrument at a very high level, or composers who write for a particular performer in mind. I also like composers who write as if he/she is performing the piece, even if the music is using recorded tape.

I included pieces in this list that are by composers whom I respect as performers as well, and the version of the recording matters. For example, Egberto Gismonti’s Loro is recorded by so many musicians, but his own solo performance in his album "Alma," for me is the best. György Kurtág’s Ligatura - Message-Hommage à Frances-Marie Uitti was originally written for Uitti using two bows, an extended technique she pioneered. I heard her extraordinary performance of the two-bow version in NYC. Unfortunately that recording is not published, but the string quartet version performed by the Keller Quartet comes close to capturing the experience.

I like György Ligeti’s Etude No. 13 recorded on the Player Piano in collaboration with Conlon Nancarrow. The work is also called Devil’s Staircase (L'escalier du diable) which is performed often by human pianists, but they typically play much slower, even by one minute! As in Nancarrow’s player piano works attempted to be performed by human pianists, I personally think this Ligeti piece loses its point when the tempo isn’t correct. I myself recorded Nancarrow’s Toccata for violin and Player Piano (1935) in my album “Polytopia” (Bridge), but I used Nancarrow’s original piano player recording, with almost inhumane tempo.

I personally also listen to Cuban music, Brazilian Jazz, and even some French/Arab Rap but if I include those, the Mixtape won’t sound like WQXR/Q2 Music!


Egberto Gismonti – Loro
György Kurtág – Ligatura – Message-Hommage à Frances-Marie Uitti (The Answered Unanswered Question)
Mario Davidovsky – Synchronisms No.6
Carlos Zingaro – Continuum
Jean-Claude Risset – Trois Etudes en duo for Disklavier
György Ligeti – Etude No. 13 for Player Piano
Joëlle Leandre – Taxi Contrebassiste
Mamoru Fujieda – Patterns of Plants: IX for Koto
Jonathan Harvey – Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco
John Cage – Cheap Imitation 1 for Solo Violin
Horacio Vaggione – Consort for Convolved Violins