dedicated to Phil Hansen

Kanashibari is available on Offshore • Albany Records • Jan. 2006

“The second half turned darker... [Waters] uses the ... sounds of a cello to evoke the ghosts that beset the ... dream state. [Kanashibari] is both an eery, unsettling work and a tour de force for cello...”
James McQuillan — The Oregonian

“... the work that employs the smallest forces, Kanashibari for cello and live electronics, is the one that leaves the biggest impression. Philip Hansen's intense performance persuades the listener that a serious intention lies behind the work, and despite the piece's crazed hyperactivity and volatile energy, there is ... a feeling of catharsis at the end ... ”
BlaIr Sanderson — All Music Guide, CD review of Offshore

Score, Parts and Electronics available from

Voice House Publishing

Program Notes

Kanashibari is the Japanese term that describes an intense and often frightful experience, common in Japan, but rare in the west. It occurs upon waking from deep sleep. The sleeper opens eyes, looks around the room and tries to rise, only to discover with fright that she/he is unable to move — paralyzed —limbs and muscles frozen. They try to call out, but their larynx is also frozen. In terror they sense the presence of another being.

In Japan discussion of Kanashibari is common, talk show hosts joke about it and self-help gurus prescribe tactics for dealing with the ghosts. Some say that, if one can overcome the fear, this state presents a powerful opportunity to communicate with the Kanashibari spirits.

The subject of this work is ghosts — the shadow personalities that inhabit our sleep — that we know little or nothing about — the sides of ourselves that may be completely obvious to others, but that we are almost completely oblivious to — the dark beings that live in the nooks and crannies of our gestures and populate our dreams. It is about the yearning to know these secret creatures that rustle the curtains just beyond reach. It is about pathos and vulnerability. It is about our terrible nocturnal loneliness and fear of the great darkness. November 2000

Performance Notes:

This work belongs to an ongoing series in which I explore the interaction of solo acoustic instruments with concrète and electronically generated sounds. In this case cello and human voice were the sources of the electronics. In these works I am striving to accomplish several things:

1. virtuosic, idiomatic writing that exploits new or seldom used performance techniques of acoustic instruments;
2. a modern, multi-layered compositional style that is simultaneously challenging and accessible;
3. complex chamber music, with precise and variable interplay between electronic and acoustic performers;
4) electronic elements that may be performed, from score (and with practice!).

The electronics employ techniques that I have been developing in a series of works since 1997. These techniques allow me to create precise works that retain the flexibility necessary for non-rigid interpretation by instrumentalists. To accomplish this I create a fully scored part for the instrumentalist. The electronic part consists of a set of complex sound cues. These are triggered at various points in the score, and serve to embellish, contrast, follow or lead the acoustic performer. Many variations are possible. Cues are stored either in laptop computer or commercial, professional "DJ" compact disc players. The latter are designed specifically for live performance and hence are well suited to the demands and rigors of travel and live performance. Dynamics are performed via audio mixer, either virtual or hardware.


Joseph Waters is a member of the first generation of American classical composers who grew up playing in rock bands. Throughout his career he has been intrigued by the confluence and tensions that entangle and bind the music of Europe and Africa. Much of his work involves interactions between electronic and acoustic instruments.

He is the founder of NWEAMO (New West Electro-Acoustic Music Organization). Each October the NWEAMO Festival travels from Mexico City, to San Diego, to Portland, Oregon, presenting composers from around the world in concerts that unite the worlds of classical and rock.

He also performs and composes for the Waters_Bluestone_Duel, an out-of-the-box ensemble that explores the combination of cutting edge, live electronics and virtuoso percussion.

He studied composition at Yale University, the Universities of Oregon and Minnesota, and Stockholms Musikpedagogiska Institut. Primary teachers were Jacob Druckman, Bernard Rands, Roger Reynolds, Dominick Argento, and Martin Bresnick.


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