Keiko Abe, born in Tokyo in 1937, is a Japanese composer and virtuoso marimba player. She has been a primary figure in the development of the marimba, both in terms of musical usage and of the design of the instrument itself.
Abe began playing the marimba at the age of 12, after hearing an American missionary group from Oral Roberts University playing the first marimba ever brought to Japan. After earning a degree in music education, she began a marimba trio that played popular music, but grew frustrated with the limited scope of the ensemble and in 1962 entered the world of contemporary classical music. playing mallet percussion with the NHK orchestra. During this period she had her own show on Japanese television, instructing schoolchildren in xylophone playing, as well as a radio show called "Good Morning Marimba". She also began her recording career with a bang, putting out 13 albums in a five-year span.
In 1963, the Yamaha corporation sought Japanese marimba players to assist in the design of their new instruments; Keiko Abe was chosen for her original and clear ideas of the marimba sound and design, particularly her concept of how the marimba should be able to blend in ensembles, for example, moving away from the inconsistencies and lack of focus of folk percussion instruments. Her ideas for the desired sound of the instruments guided Yamaha's design, and in the 1970s began production. In addition, at her urging, the range of the new marimba was stretched from four octaves to five, which has become the standard for soloists. Abe has been closely associated with Yamaha ever since, and their first ever signature series of keyboard percussion mallets bears her name.
Her compositions, including "Michi", "Variations on Japanese Children's Songs", and "Dream of the Cherry Blossoms", have become standards of the marimba repertoire. Abe is active in promoting the development of literature for the marimba, not only by writing pieces herself, but also by commissioning works by other composers and encouraging young composers.
In addition to her heavy composing, touring, and recording schedule, Abe is currently a professor at the Toho Gauken School of Music in Tokyo. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, and the first player to develop six-mallet techique. Among her former students is the noted percussionist Evelyn Glennie.
Marimba Concertino is a work for solo marimba and four percussionists. The opening of the piece features energetic trades between the pitched and non-pitched players. This section is contrasted with a grave chorale that is supported by timpani and suspended cymbals. A cadenza section after the chorale is a great area to showcases musicality and dynamic...
Michi Paraphrase is a NEW work for solo marimba by Keiko Abe. The piece is based on one of Abe's improvisations on her piece Michi. This advanced 4-mallet marimba solo is classic Keiko Abe. It begins rubato with an improvisational feel and closes with a fiery sequence of mixed meters. An excellent choice for advanced/professional marimbists!
The WAVE Impressions by Keiko Abe is one of her newest compositions to be available publicly. It was first written for marimba and 2 percussionists (this version). It has also been arranged for marimba and gamelan jegog. This version first premiered in 2008 in Austria by Emiko Uchiyama as the marimba soloist, with Manuel Hofstaetter and Vladimir...
A newer collection of works for solo marimba from Keiko Abe. All works require a 5 oct. marimba. Includes:Alone for MarimbaVariations on Dowland's Lachrimae PavanaGalilee Impressions (6 Mallets)Voice of Matsuri DrumsItsuki Fantasy for Six Mallets
Michi for Marimba by Keiko Abe is a standard in the advanced marimba repertoire. Keiko Abe performed this composition on many of her U.S. tours. It features sections at the beginning and end that are open for improvisation. Many style changes in this work give it an excellent sense of motion and purpose.
Modern Japanese Marimba Pieces 2 (Miyoshi, Sukegawa)Selections:Miyoshi, Akira - Conversation (Suite for Marimba)I. Tender TalkII. So Nice It Was......RepeatedlyIII. Lingering ChagrinIV. Again the Hazy Answer!V. A Lame ExcuseSukegawa, Toshiya - Five Pieces after Paul KleeI. One who Runs SwiftlyII. Cloud and LightIII. Winter BirdsIV. In the Dim LightV. Hot...