Samurai Loops (2015)

Duration: 8:30

Instrumentation: Two Pianos, Video, Tape / Two Pianos, Taiko Drums, Glockenspiel, Double Bass, Video

Commissioned by: Samuel Mitchell, Supported by Australia Council For The Arts

Premiere: Samuel Mitchell and Cara Tran at The Nickson Room, July 2015

US Premiere: Miki Sawada and Isabelle O’Connell at MATA Festival, The Kitchen, NYC, 11 April 2018.

UK Premiere: Samuel Mitchell at ‘Living Music’, Christchurch Cathedral Oxford, 9 June 2019.

Additional Performances:
AURA Contemporary Ensemble, “Peculiar” Concert, Moores Opera House, Houston Texas, November 22 2019.
Samuel Mitchell and Cara Tran at Extended Play Festival, City Recital Hall, Sydney, 31 August 2019;
Cara Tran and Hana Hart at Dots+Loops Synthesis, 16 March 2018.
Samuel Mitchell and Cara Tran at “Trichotomy & Nonsemble” concert, Cupo, Brisbane, 2 September 2016;

Program Notes

Samurai Loops uses a few minutes of footage cut from the 1967 film Samurai Rebellion. In the 4 sections of the work, this footage is manipulated in different ways to make rhythmic patterns visible. In the scene, two old friends are bound by their duties as Samurai to fight to the death. The duel is resolved in a single fluid and deadly motion. In Samurai Loops, this critical moment is frozen, and its hidden rhythmic qualities revealed.

In the first section, simple cuts are made to emphasise the gradually densifying harmonic movement. The second section shifts into a surreal visual space; melodic fragments begin in unison across the four hands on the pianos, and gradually drift out of phase. This is reflected by the images multiplying and slowly splitting out across the screen. Each time the melody appears, a little more of it is revealed, and likewise the footage progresses slightly further each time. In the following section, the four hands each play the same rhythm and melodic contour, but at different speeds; the footage also splits into four, each looping at a rate corresponding to one of the hands, continuing and developing until the polyrhythmic parts realign. The final section mirrors the first, showing the conclusion of the duel.

Samurai Loops is part of an ongoing exploration into how complex polyrhythmic patterns can be reflected and elucidated by moving images. In these works, repetition robs the footage of its representative function, bringing out its formal and rhythmic characteristics. The music and images of Samurai Loops were composed simultaneously, as a single integrated musical work.

Review Excerpts

“The visual element in Chris Perren’s Samurai Loops, conceived as it was for video and two pianos, was among the strongest of the night. The projection took a scene of two friends in mortal combat from Masaki Kobayashi’s 1967 film Samurai Rebellion, at first looping the movements of Toshiro Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai so they began to resemble dancers instead of warriors. Just as I was settling into that concept, the images exploded into repeating patterns, with dozens of samurai now moving in concert on the screen. Even more dazzling was the rhythmic acuity, as the music matched each clash of the swords. Not so easy, as O’Connell confirmed after the show. While she and Sawada were able to use the electronic sounds to help them stay on track, they couldn’t really see the screen while they performed. The music, while adjacent to minimalism, could also be lushly melancholic, with sweeping melodies that interacted well with the macho romance of the imagery. Perren, from Australia, also performs with Nonsemble and Mr. Maps, among other things. Watch Samurai Loops and then explore his world if you’re as captivated as I am.”

MATA Bad Romance Review, Jeremy Shattan, An Earful.

“Back to the beginning. At midday, my passion for cinema, not least Japanese, is indulged as Toshiro Mifune and Tatsua Nakadai in Samurai Rebellion (Masaki Kobayashi, 1967), swords drawn, face off onscreen to the engrossing two-piano (Cara Tan, Sam Mitchell) and clattering sticks electronics score of Chris Perren’s 9-minute Samurai Loops (2015) made for his impressive Brisbane-based Nonsemble. In a series of increasingly complex animations created by the composer, the characters are digitised into multi-layered cut-outs posturing in abstracted motion and then released into action, drawing us into the middle of a deep line of combatants. They move in taut correspondence with the music, highlighting and amplifying the inherent dancerliness of the warriors with dextrous visual and aural looping and a compelling not-at-all-orientalist melody.”

Extended Play Festival Review, Keith Gallasch, Realtime Arts