The Wondrous Midi Compositions
of Yo Kubota
by Douglas Milburn
The Problem with Midis
The door that was first opened by jazz was flung wide by the computer, which gave instant,
easy, cheap access to all possible tonalities, rhythms, and sonic structures.
One of the first such computer tools was the midi, an interface
which gives a composer access to a variety of musical and percussive sounds. In unskilled
hands, a piece of midi music is primitive and simplistic, generally sounding mechanical
and monotonous. In talented hands, midi becomes a valid, rich means of musical
Here we will let the work of Yo Kubota speak for itself.
In the drop-down menu below youll find several of Mr. Kubotas midis:
1. "Travel of a Holy Night."
Actually the title should be, "Travel of a Silent Night," because this is Mr.
Kubotas homage to THE central Christmas carol. As he describes it, the piece
"repeats the melody of [Silent Night] six times with a scale of Miyakobusi(Japan),
seven equally divided scale(Siamese), Pelog(Java), Bhairav(Hindu), Maqam Rast(Arab) and
Pythagoras(Western medieval). Finally, all instruments play in concert."
2. "To the Victims of a Holy Night."
Again, this is "Silent Night" as youve never heard it. According to Mr.
Kubota, "it's a parody of Penderecki's To the Victims of Hiroshima."
He notes that he "would like to dedicate this piece to the rejected lovers who drink
with a vengeance in their despair on Christmas Eve."
This may be the single most remarkable midi Ive ever heard. First, it is a true
and accurate homage to/satire of Penderecki, containing eerie pseudo-orchestral effects
beyond anything I thought midi was capable of. Second, it is a subtle, funny satire both
of 20th century "serious" music and simultaneously of the hypocrisy
of sententious capitalist Christmas.
3. "Flow My Tears."
From the funny to the sublime. One of the most hauntingly beautiful songs in the Western
canon is "Flow My Tears," by John Dowland (1562-1626). The song made him famous,
and he used the melody repeatedly in various forms, most notably in his Lachrimae.
This is one of those small works that a gifted singer on a good day can ride into the
heavens. But reduce it to midi? Against all odds, Mr. Kubota has, working within the
severe limitations of midi, done the song justice.
4. "Auld Lang Syne."
Yo Kubota has also been active in an area of composition known as fractal music, in which
composers apply to sound the mathematical formulas which produce the lovely, infinite
graphic regressions known as fractals. Here, Mr. Kubota applies fractal theory very subtly
to another Western chestnut.
5. "Mandelbrot Suite No. 2."
For those with adventurous ears, heres one selection from a multi-part composition
by Mr. Kubota, using his own fractal software and his own wide-ranging midi abilities.