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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Good Vibes on Marimba Street

From the Vault Dept.: Having unearthed this 1985 review of an unusual recital at Proctors in Schenectady, I searched the internet for a better photo of Nachiko Maekane than the thumbnail that ran with the article. I found none, but discovered how ignorant I can be of my own backyard. It turns out that Maekane lives in the area and spent some time on the music faculty at Schenectady County Community College, members of which joined her in concert last November!


CAPPING TWO WEEKS of community residency, the performance by marimba virtuoso Nachiko Maekane at Proctor’s Theater was a fitting conclusion to her stay here – and, it is hoped, an indication of the kind of talent we can expect by the next two performers who will have a similar residency in the area under the Affiliate Artists program.

Nachiko Maekane
Affiliate Artists has been operating since 1966, sponsoring gifted solo performers to develop new audiences in selected communities. Thanks to a gift from the General Electric Foundation, this is the first year the program has sent artists our way, and Ms. Maekane will be followed by an actor and a mime.

Tuesday night’s performance at Proctor’s was much more formal than what she had been doing – “informances,” they’re called, suggesting the mixture achieved by a combination of performance and discussion. Tuesday night, Ms. Maekane played a brief program of six pieces, most of which were written specifically for her instrument.

The marimba is a sort of percussion hybrid, placing the tuned wooden bars of a xylophone over the resonating columns of a set of vibes. It is played with one or two mallets in each hand. It does not naturally sustain a pitch, but a skilled performer, like Ms. Maekane, can bring forth an organ-like quality through clever hammering.

The pieces on the program, all but one by Japanese composers, explored various aspects of the instrument’s sonority. The first work, “Time for Marimba,” by Minoru Miki, began with an arpeggio study and went into a study of the dynamic contrasts obtainable, relying on rhythm and repetition over melody and harmony.

This was true throughout the program. The music lacked the harmonic tension of the more traditional Western voices, though this tendency is by no means confined to the East; the so-called “minimalist” composers are upholding such qualities. Wieniawski’s “Souvenir de Moscow,” originally written for violin, was in marked contrast to the other works, and the encore she gave us, “Granada,” proved that she is a veritable Art Tatum of the marimba.

– Albany Knickerbocker News, 9 February 1985

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