Isao Nakamura as an intercultural percussionist and his activities in the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt

Joevan de Mattos Caitano

Independent Researcher, germany


Since 1985, Isao Nakamura (b. 1958) has been developing various activities as percussionist in festivals, workshops in Germany and other continents. His versatility and intercultural creativity mixing Brazilian samba, tradition of “Matsuri” drums at Shinto festivals in Japan, and Germanic new music has attracted students from different parts of the world who have studied and are studying percussion in the Hochschule für Musik in Karlsruhe, where Nakamura holds the position of professor. Acting as a teacher and performer, he was also very active at Darmstädter Ferienkurse from 1986 to 2008 acting as a soloist and also in partnership with pianist Kaya Han at Duo Konflikt, when he performed works by several composers, among them, James Wood, Harrison Birtwistle, Chang Wing-wah, Volker Staub, James Dillon, Jürg Wyttenbach, Julio Estrada, Younghi Pagh-Paan, Toshio Hosokawa, Nam-Kuk Kim, Dieter Mack, Gerald Eckert, Mauricio Kagel, Bernfried Pröve, Salvatore Sciarrino, Jo Kondo, Robert HP Platz, Thierry de Mey, Thomas Lauck, Klaus Huber, Hans Ulrich Engelmann, Sohrab Uduman, Gerhard Stäbler, William Attwood, Sungji Hong, Masahiro Isijima, Pröve Bernfried, Peter Eötvös, Nicolaus Richter de Vroe, Isang Yun, Steffen Schleiermacher, Terumichi Tanaka, John Cage, and so.

Thanks to the support of professor Bernhard Wulff at Freiburg University of Music, Isao Nakamura was introduced to director Friedrich Hommel at the Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt in 1986, when concerts with percussion works were discussed and implemented. The advent of the “Darmstadt in Japan/ Japan in Darmstadt” project conceived by Toshio Hosokawa, made possible the invasion of Japanese participants in the Ferienkurse 1994, in a special meeting that brought intercultural performances, witnessed in the performance of Mayumi Miyiata (shō) and Isao Nakamura in the event Akiyoshidai International Contemporary Music Seminar and Festival, Cooperation guest concerts, Part II, “A Summer Midnight Chamber Concert”.

The inauguration of Solf Schaefer as director of Darmstädter Ferienkurse in 1995 continued the maintenance of Isao Nakamura’s pedagogical competence as an instrumentalist at concerts, a teacher at percussion workshops in Darmstadt, and a partner on the committee for organizing Darmstädter Ferienkurse 2000, in a group formed by Barbara Maurer, Nicholas Hodges, Michael Reudenbach, Peter Veale, Mark Osborn. In the convergent interculturalism in new music, Isao Nakamura’s participation in Ensemble Yūsei from Tokyo at Ferienkurse 1998 also stands out, when traditional Japanese music was performed and discussed in Darmstadt with the intermediation of Toshio Hosokawa.

Solf Schaefer’s artistic direction in the early 21st century brought traditional Korean music to Darmstadt with Young-Cher Park and Isao Nakamura performing at Ferienkurse 2002. At Ferienkurse 2004, Nakamura played as a guest at the Ensemble of Tongyeong International Music Festival (TIMF) enhancing the connection between Darmstadt and Korea. The symposium “intercultural traces in contemporary composition” led by Jörn Peter Hiekel at Ferienkurse 2006 put into question the receptivity of other non-European cultures in Darmstadt, coexisting with performances by Isao Nakamura that year.

Based on material collected at IMD Archiv, interviews with Isao Nakamura and other protagonists such as percussionists Mircea Ardeleanu, Zoltán Rácz, László Hudacsek, Gergely Biró, and so, this proposal intends to discuss in detail about the legacy of this Japanese musician who worked intensively with several composers, trained several students, placing the percussion in a visibility status in Darmstadt in the Hommel and in the Schaefer’s leadership.

Keywords: Darmstadt, Isao Nakamura, New Music


Joevan de Mattos Caitano is a Brazilian musicologist, pianist, composer and music educator based in Germany since 2013. His academic background includes a technical course in musical arrangements at Escola Villa-Lobos, a bachelor’s degree in Sacred Music at Faculdade Batista in Rio de Janeiro, undergraduate degree in Licenciatura em Música (Music education), Master in Musicology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and PhD in musicology at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden. His research interests include Brazilian popular music, International Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt and dialogues with other continents, Japanese Contemporary Music in Japan and America.