Commissioned by the Yokohama Noh Theater and the Yokohama Arts Foundation in Japan, Twelve Hours is a new suite by Pablo Ziegler — the Buenos Aires-born pianist and composer who helped shape the modern tango — for shakuhachi (traditional Japanese vertical bamboo flute), koto (traditional Japanese harp), bandoneon, piano, percussion, and string ensemble. Named for the time difference between the port cities of Buenos Aires and Yokohama, Twelve Hours explores a marriage of Argentine nuevo tango with Japanese traditional music, while celebrating the long legacy of the tango in Japan.
The tango arrived in Japan in the 1920’s, when Baron Megata, a Japanese nobleman who’d spent several years in Paris mastering the dance, opened his own tango dance academy offering free lessons to the Japanese aristocracy. The music’s popularity in Japan boomed through the 30’s and 40’s, spurred in part by the prohibition of American jazz during World War II, with several popular Japanese tango singers and ensembles on the scene.
Ziegler, who first visited Japan in 1988 while on tour with his longtime collaborator Astor Piazzolla, has held a longstanding interest in Japanese traditional music, ever since his first encounter with Noh theatre. With Twelve Hours, he brings these traditional Japanese timbres in dialogue with the bittersweet sounds of Argentine tango. The work was premiered by Ziegler and renowned shakuhachi player Dozan Fujiwara at Minato Mirai Hall in Yokohama in February 2016.