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Kitaro takes to the stars in experimental concert experience

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BIG BANG  Sonoma County’s Kitaro fuses music with cosmic images for his new performances.
  • BIG BANG Sonoma County‚Äôs Kitaro fuses music with cosmic images for his new performances.

A founding figure in the new age musical movement, internationally acclaimed composer Kitaro masterfully merges traditional Japanese harmonics and modern electronics for a meditative listening experience that radiates inner peace and aims to promote global unity.

This month, the Japanese-born artist, who has called Sonoma County home for 10 years, unveils two very different musical projects: Performing the stunning visual concert "Kojiki and The Universe" on Thursday, April 20, at the Marin Center in San Rafael, and releasing the new album in his ongoing series, Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai, Vol. 5, on Friday, April 21.

This week's debut of "Kojiki and the Universe" won't be the first time Kitaro's music has been matched with visuals. The musician's extensive discography includes critically acclaimed scores for Oliver Stone's 1993 film Heaven & Earth and the 1997 Chinese film The Soong Sisters. This is Kitaro's first foray into incorporating original visuals to complement his music rather than the other way around.

"Kojiki and the Universe" immerses audiences in a visual journey to the stars, featuring time-lapse and real-time footage of distant galaxies and astronomical phenomenon provided by NASA and Kyoto University.

"Ever since I was a child I have been very interested in space and the universe. I looked to the stars and wondered what was out there," Kitaro says. "Now I have an opportunity to explore and work with space by creating sound waves through it."

The concert's concept was born in 2012, when Kitaro visited Kwasan Observatory at Kyoto University during a solar eclipse and met professor Kazunari Shibata. "He gave me a tour of the observatory, including the oldest actively used telescope in Japan, the Sartorius telescope," remembers Kitaro. The two began collaborating immediately afterward, and Shibata was essential in collecting and co-creating visual representations of the universe that include many different elements of color and movement.

These brilliant images are set to Kitaro's music, namely his 1990 album Kojiki, to tell a story related to the Japanese myth about the origins of heaven, earth and the gods. "Kojiki is a well-known mythological story in Japan," Kitaro says. "Part of the myth is interpreted as a description of an ancient solar eclipse."

With that inspiration, the visual concert pairs Kitaro performing songs that thematically relate to the accompanying visuals. "I feel that's the reason it works so well—because there's a balance between the music and the visual movements," he says. "I believe that the distant images of the universe and music have similarities, in that they both inspire our imagination."

Kitaro notes that all of the images presented in the show are important from a viewpoint of astronomical research, which makes this project a useful introduction to modern astronomy.

The show on April 20 will be the first time "Kojiki and the Universe" is performed live in this new format. "I invite everyone to come see this exciting live show and experience it as I will for the first time," Kitaro says. After the show's debut this week in San Rafael, Kitaro will tour the world and release the show as a DVD.

Kitaro's new release, Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai, Vol. 5, picks up where 2010's fourth volume left off, continuing a theme of peace inspired by the classic Buddhist pilgrimage to the 88 sacred temples on Japan's island of Shikoku. The previous four volumes of Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai were all Grammy-nominated albums. Volume five expands on the musical dynamic and melodies of those four releases and reflects Kitaro's ever-evolving growth as an artist and composer.

For the creative process on the latest volume, Kitaro took a new, interesting approach. "Each song was created that very day in the studio. We purposefully didn't prepare anything in advance and composed songs purely through our inspiration at the moment," he says.

"With clear minds, we entered the recording studio, picked up on the emotion and energy of the moment and created our first impressions by recording them immediately in the moment."

The Sacred Journey series began in 2003 as a response to the global events that transpired in the wake of September 11, 2001.

"For me, peace comes from the creative process," Kitaro says. "I enjoy the recording process and touring the world. It brings me peace to know that my music is a source of enjoyment and relaxation for my fans, which I hope brings them peace."

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