by Sami Elu

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    Paper craft case with hand printed stencil design, white paper band "obi" with track information and jacket photo by Nico Perez. The CD itself is decorated with a mandala design

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Passage - a mystical suite for waribashi piano

the past future and present, no matter what happens, are the same path.
All is one.

The waribashi piano is an electric string instrument closely related to the zither family, also resembling the harp, lyre, or dulcimer in its tone quality. As a street performer I've had many chances to hear the reaction of people from various parts of the world, many of whom informed me that a similar such instrument exists in their country: The Kantele from Finland, the Qanun of Turkey, the Santur of central Asia, the Chinese Guzheng and Japanese Koto. However the prime inspiration for the design is from looking at old 1920s and 30s zither contraptions from the USA on the internet.

29 piano strings are stretched over a wooden frame. 1 key and 1 chopstick hit each string. The right hand picks the strings with a sharpened chopstick to play melodies. 7 notes per octave and 4 octaves, tuned to the major scale or mode thereof. The percussion sounds are from a handmade 4 piece set: kick drum (bass pickup and metal sheet), snare (wood, metal bits in a can, and a piezo pickup), bells, and a gong.

The original version was birthed in the Autumn of 2012, when I was living in a worn out ruin of a building near Hatsudai station in Tokyo. The living room became a workshop, filled with tools, broken chopsticks, piano strings, bamboo and metal scraps. The desire to create instruments developed out of a lifelong fascination with sound, resonating objects, vocal jam sessions with friends, browsing music and antique shops, collecting instruments, bells and gongs. I got into making junk percussion, wind chimes, bamboo gamelan, electric bamboo kotos, banjos, tuning forks and pipe vibraphones, feedback machines, reed flutes, and ideas for much more. Also guiding me is my love of the piano since childhood.

John Cage's pieces for prepared piano many decades ago were revolutionary for radically expanding the timbre of the piano into new territories. We can further pioneer these mysterious places by subsequently disassembling the piano altogether and restructuring it to allow for a whole spectrum of effects: vibrato, pitch bending, different types of attack and decay, glissandi, percussive effects, and with a magnetic pickup, analog and digital processing. The waribashi piano is a hybrid beast, a vehicle for incantation and divination. The instrument used for this recording is the fourth incarnation I have made.

The music in this collection is a set of improvisations within a very simple framework. 世の中 is the only track with a more strictly composed form. We are guided through several landscapes, slowly unfolding. Freely roaming and turning at will, the road itself as the destination. Transported through time, it is the passage of the seekers.


released August 25, 2015

All performances and compositions by Sami Elu (Samuel Lilly)

mix + master - Keigo Tanaka
CD package design - Yukako Okubo
photos - Nico Perez
logo & mandala - Suwa Hiromi
A&R - Shuhei Tanikawa
recording engineer - Toshio Ito
recorded at LDK studio, Tokyo
May 8, 2015



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