Great success for Marc David Ferrum in Japan

15. March 2021
Asahi Shimbun

Marc David Ferrum – graduate of the composition class of Prof. Markus Hechtle and Prof. Dr. h. c. Wolfgang Rihm at the Karlsruhe University of Music – achieved a great and very special success with his participation in a unique project of the Japanese National Theatre Tokyo. Together with the Japanese composers Yu Kuwabara and Motoharu Kawashima, he set ten poems from the German-Japanese poetry collection "Berlin Renshi - Die Strickleiter an der Fasanenstraße" (Berlin Renshi – The rope ladder on Fasanenstraße) to music. The work was written for large ensemble consisting of eleven traditional Japanese instruments, eleven Western instruments, baritone and Noh singer. The world premiere took place in Tokyo on 5 and 6 March 2021. Until 24 March, the videos created during the performance can be accessed via on-demand streaming:


The registration form also contains more detailed information (English) about the production, in which you can experience not only gagaku but also exciting encounters of East-West compositions. Please be sure to note that the free on-demand service may only be used from Germany, not from Japan!

What is special about this project is not only that Marc David Ferrum was allowed to compose on behalf of the Japanese National Theatre, but also that this is directly related to the partnership between the Karlsruhe University of Music and the Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo.

Marc David Ferrum Japan

This partnership between two universities began in 2016 with the visit of the well-known Shō player Mayumi Miyata and the composition professor Motoharu Kawashima, who invited the students of the composition classes in Karlsruhe to compose for the Shō. Already in January 2017, the first student exchange took place with a trip to Japan, during which these pieces were performed. A few months later, as part of the "Apropos Japan" project funded by the Baden-Württemberg Foundation, the first performance of these pieces took place in Germany, performed by the two Shō players Remi Miura and Hanako Nakamura (who can also be seen again in the current production). In the summer semester of 2018, Marc David Ferrum spent a semester abroad at Kunitachi College, where he studied composition with Motoharu Kawashima and was able to learn the two traditional instruments Koto and Shō. It is thanks to this exchange that the new collaborative composition project came into being.

Marc David Ferrum:
"We composed very similarly to the poets Shuntarō Tanikawa, Makoto Ōka, Oskar Pastior and H. C. Artmann in the 1980s, because in the Japanese poetry form Renshi, the poems are passed on among the participants and continued quasi "in series" based on what came before. Therefore, our composition process began almost a year ago. From then on, everyone had a month per poem to write between four and six minutes of music for the Western-Japanese ensemble. Ms Kuwabara started with Part 1, I followed based on that with Parts 2, 3 and 4, Ms Kuwabara again with Parts 5 and 6, and finally Mr Kawashima with Parts 7 to10."  
"... I think this concert is a wonderful example of where the networking of our universities can lead! And not only of the universities, but also the history of German-Japanese friendship and artistic cooperation. So I would be very happy if perhaps some would like to watch the recording of the premiere of the "Berlin Renshi II" on Demand."

Motoharu Kawashima:
"... So I wanted to recommend a German composer to the project. Shortly before that, the following happened: ... For the 90th anniversary, there was an event at the partner conservatory in Karlsruhe. There, Prof. Mayumi Miyata gave a workshop on the Shō for the German students. As a result, they wrote pieces for Shō. After a few months, they were invited to Japan to premiere their compositions at the Kunitachi Conservatory. One of the students who took part in the project at that time is Mr Marc David Ferrum, who is taking part in our project today. Afterwards, he spent his semester abroad with us as an exchange student and studied with me. ... At that time he also learned koto and gagaku music, in which he actually played Shō himself. I think it's rare to find people like that from Germany. ... At the right time Marc-san was there and so the choice fell on him. ..."

At the moment, the partners are working on the possibility of a performance in Germany in the near future.

Marc David Ferrum Japan 4

Report of the Japanese newspaper "Asahi Shimbun" about the premiere