Kamakiri (praying mantis) for solo marimba [program notes]
As a child, I enjoyed biking to an abandoned grassy lot by myself to write poetry. There were many insects there and I would often put down my pencil and notepad and start chasing them. I would look at them very closely, studying their body parts and observing how they moved. Butterflies, ants, crickets… my childhood was full of little creatures.
Among those little insects, I paid special attention to the praying mantises. They are very unique: their triangular heads remain oddly motionless though their mouths seem to be constantly chewing. Their compound eyes stare into the middle distance, but I can’t tell what they are looking at. Their slender legs move cautiously yet gracefully with the precision of a machine. Their bodies perfectly balance on their hind legs, freeing their front legs for an attack – an attack which they appear poised for. As a child, I could seemingly spend hours transfixed watching them without becoming bored.
At a certain point, however, I stopped paying such close attention to insects. School, friends, homework, and chores rushed into my life and filled my days with vicious intensity. Over time, bugs became transformed into dirty, disgusting, and gross things. I can’t even remember when I last saw a praying mantis.
This piece is homage to the time of amazing encounters with insects and other creatures crawling about in the mud, soil, hay and dead leaves of the empty lots, to the time when I felt not only that I was a part of nature, but when I could experience the joy of paying close attention to what was in front of me, even something very small or overlooked by others – like a praying mantis.
My sincere gratitude to Haruka Fujii, a wonderful friend and fabulous musician, who commissioned this piece and premiered it in 2007 at the Zeltsman Marimba Festival.