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Scotsman: Return of Explorer Series "Simply Wonderful"

Explorer Series: East Asia: Japan: Geza Music [cover]

"Never again will a record company essay what the producers of the Nonesuch Explorers did in 1967, bringing out a series of superb field recordings to make, eventually, a 92-record set," says The Scotsman's Michael Church in his five-star review of the two titles that marked the release of a number of Japanese Explorer Series albums on CD this fall: Koto Classics and Geza Music from the Kabuki. Their reissue in September, digitally remastered and repackaged, was followed by a similar treatment of Koto Music and Flower Dance: Japanese Folk Melodies in late October; and two weeks from now, they will be joined by two more releases from Japan: Traditional Vocal & Instrumental Pieces and Shakuhachi: The Japanese Flute.

Church goes on to explain the importance of the Explorer Series:

For the first time, ethnomusicology had borne fruit that could compare in sound quality with commercial recordings, and the world's multifarious non-Western musics could for the first time be savoured in all their rich diversity. The vinyl LPs that constituted this panoptic view covered five continents, and brought to light a wealth of hitherto hidden traditions.

The revival of the series began in August 2002 with the release of 13 volumes of African music, followed by a number of titles from Indonesia. The reissue of these albums, says Church, "is simply wonderful, because much of this music—four decades on—is now either extinct or grievously debased."

The pieces on Koto Classics, in particular, he says, "demand real virtuosity, which in the hands of Shinichi Yuize they get in full measure ... The swooshing slides of Yuize's hands over the long strings increase the feeling of immediacy, as does his vibrato-free voice." He describes the works on Geza Music as "musically thrilling, with the banjo-like shamisen offset by flutes, bells, and drums."

Read the five-star reviews at living.scotsman.com.

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