Alec Toku Whiting

Music – ’15

Alec Toku Whiting is a composer, improviser, koto player, and mandolinist from Yokohama, Japan. His work is concerned with the multiplicity of perspective, and the possibility for the shared artistic experience to be a physical site for both unification and refraction.

Alec began playing the koto at an early age with a focus on contemporary Japanese music. As he entered his teens he began to write songs and play in rock bands. His pursuit of the creative act accompanied by his niche koto background eventually led to his musical practice being entirely consumed by the fields of composition and improvisation.

The fields of composition and improvisation provide a diverse set of means in his pursuit of common musical goals. His work ranges from totally composed to completely improvised, and the intersection and possible shadings between the two is a point of interest. The exploration of notation as a method of coding, and as an opportunity to explore the possibilities of human reaction and intuition is of particular importance.

Moving from Japan to America to pursue his studies cemented the importance of physicality and geography to his work. These concerns are inseparable from his conception of art as a social and political action. Alec’s work is inspired by a rich sense of intertextuality, drawn from his interest in diverse forms of artistic practice as well as 20th century history and philosophy.

Recent performances of his work include the premiere of his new Failure Parables in November 2017 as a part of New England Conservatory’s celebration of the work of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. His new chamber piece Soil, Where the Feathers Are Caught will be premiered in March 2018. Alec is currently exploring the work of the father of butoh, Tatsumi Hijikata, as impetus for a new work for koto and voice. Frequent collaborators as an improviser include guitarist Wendy Eisenberg and violinist Robert Burdick.

While much of his time is spent composing, conducting, and performing his own music, Alec regularly performs the work of other musicians. Highlights include performing Shawn Jaeger’s The Cold Pane in 2016 and taking part in a complete performance of Cornelius Cardew’s magnum opus The Great Learning in 2017. Alec has also performed the work of Anthony Braxton, Yoshimura Hiyoshi, Tadao Sawai, Hikaru Sawai, Gabriel Kahane, and Hideaki Kuribayashi.

Alec is currently a student at New England Conservatory in the Contemporary Improvisation department, where he studies composition with Stratis Minakakis and Anthony Coleman. Other teachers have included Carla Kihlstedt and Joe Morris. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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