World-renowned shakuhachi master Riley Lee has joined forces with the Sydney-based Enigma Quartet to create a new genus of music in one of the most ambitious commissioning and performance projects in recent years. Their new album, The Five Elements takes the listener on a kaleidoscopic journey through the Australian landscape that traverses universal concepts linking humanity to our natural environment and spiritual core through music.
Drawing inspiration from the belief in many ancient cultures that the entire universe was made of just five fundamental elements – earth, air, water, fire and ether – Riley Lee and the Enigma Quartet have commissioned and selected music from Australia’s finest compositional voices to present a strikingly original offering that voyages between Eastern Zen Buddhism and Western Classicism.
Riley Lee is Australia’s pre-eminent shakuhachi player and has a very significant understanding of – and profile in – new music. A consummate teacher, performer and collaborator with other musicians of all genres, in 1980 he became the first non-Japanese to attain the rank of dai shihan or Grand Master.
Riley began playing the shakuhachi in Japan in 1971, studying was with Chikuho Sakai until 1980, and has been a student of Katsuya Yokoyama since 1984. He is the recipient of two of the oldest and most venerated lineages of traditional shakuhachi, which can be traced back to the Zen Buddhist komusō, or ‘priests of nothingness’ of the Edo period in Japan. Riley’s studies with traditional teachers in Japan have included such peculiar methods as practising barefoot in the snow, blowing into his flute under waterfalls and in blizzards until icicles form at its end, and running the Boston Marathon and then playing taiko drums at the finish line.
The Enigma Quartet are regulars on the Sydney music scene, performing at the Independent Theatre, Musica Viva’s Coffee Concert Series and for the Sydney Mozart Society. They have been broadcast across Australia for Sunday Live on ABC Classic, and have appeared at many festivals including the Huntington Estate Music Festival.
Their career was launched when they won second prize in the prestigious Musica Viva Chamber Music Competition. Masterclass opportunities followed with the St. Lawrence, Goldner, Ensō and Takács Quartet, and in 2012 they were invited into Musica Viva’s Rising Stars program.
The quartet enjoy exploring new music and have premiered works by Lachlan Skipworth, Gerard Brophy, Philip Jameson and Alice Chance. Their collaborations have included projects with soprano Emma Matthews, saxophonist Christina Leonard, double-bassist Kirsty McCahon, bassoonist Jack Schiller and the German-based Amaryllis Quartet.
1 ROSS EDWARDS Voice of the Rain/ 2 STUART GREENBAUM Oxygen/ 3 ANNE BOYD Alchera-Jugulba/ HOLLY HARRISON Flashpoint 4 I. Free, Driving 5 II. Simmering & Ritualistic 6 III. Driving/ 7 ANDREW HOWES Aether/ 8 LACHLAN SKIPWORTH Light Rain/ 9 KATY ABBOTT Earth Lullaby/ 10 GERARD BROPHY Air/ 11 DAVID HIRSCHFELDER A Fire Begins/ 12 ELENA KATS-CHERNIN Fleeting Moment
The artists: Riley Lee shakuhachi/ Enigma Quartet –Marianne Broadfoot & Kerry Martin violins, Elizabeth Woolnough viola, Rowena Macneish cello
Digital Album | Available Now | ABC 0028948179985