Noted Japanese composer Keiko Fujiie will present “Wilderness Mute,” a multidisciplinary work of music, image, poetry and Japanese Butoh dance, on Friday, Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m., in the Foundry Theater at Antioch College. The work is in response to the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, and is slated in conjunction with an exhibit at the Herndon Gallery looking at nuclear bombing archival materials. Fujiie is photographed in the Antioch College president’s house. (Photo by Megan Bachman)

Performance, exhibit at Antioch —  Bringing A-bomb history to light

When Japanese atomic-bomb survivor Kyoko Hayashi traveled to the Trinity  site in New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb was tested 50 years prior, she found burned mountains, ruined fields, and a “wilderness forced into silence.”

As Hayashi recounts in her poetic text, “From Trinity to Trinity,” although she was a hibakusha, literally “explosion-affected person,” as a survivor of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945, she was moved to tears only after witnessing the bomb’s utter devastation of the natural world. She couldn’t even find an insect in the vast wasteland.

“Until now as I stand at the Trinity Site, I have thought it was we humans who were the first atomic bomb victims on Earth,” she wrote. “I was wrong. Here are my senior hibakusha. They are here but cannot cry or yell.”

“Wilderness Mute” by Japanese composer Keiko Fujiie derives its name from Hayashi’s empathetic encounter with the New Mexican desert. For Fujiie, a longtime resident of Nagasaki, the piece is inspired by survivors like Hayashi, who overcame their own suffering to connect with the suffering of others.

“She saw that Mother Earth was a victim before us,” Fujiie said of Hayashi.  “It touched me so much.”

A collaborative, multidisciplinary work involving music, image, poetry and Japanese Butoh dance, “Wilderness Mute” is a response to the U.S. nuclear bombing of Nagasaki. The performance, only the second one in the U.S., will be held Friday, Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m., in the Foundry Theater at Antioch College.

The piece is in conjunction with “Nuclear Fallout: The Bomb in Three Archives,” with local artist Migiwa Orimo, which opens at Antioch’s Herndon Gallery the previous evening, Thursday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. with a talk by Orimo.

“Wilderness Mute” is a special performance funded by the Music of Remembrance, a Seattle, Wash., project that annually commissions compositions to remember the Holocaust. For its 20th anniversary year, the group commissioned two pieces on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, selecting for one of them Fujiie, a noted and frequently performed Japanese composer. 

Fujiie’s work draws from the firsthand accounts of victims of the Nagasaki bombing, unimaginable in its horror. She sees the accounts as vital to preserve.

“This atomic bombing is not possible to imagine, so before the last victim passes away, I have to share,” she said.

At the same time, Fujiie also wants her audience to see the universal nature of the problem and the present-day threat of nuclear proliferation and nuclear waste.

“We don’t want so many sentimental lamentations,” she said. “It is a tragedy,” she added of the Japanese bombings,
“but it is a tragedy everywhere.”

“We are all in the highest risk.”

In addition to the voices of the Nagasaki victims, Fujiie incorporates the poetry of Nobel laureate physicist-turned-peace activist Yukawa Hidecki. His poem deals with the mistakes made by early nuclear scientists such as himself, who, for their impressive achievements, unleashed a new terror on the world.

Through her piece, Fujiie hopes American audiences remember not only the human toll of the Japanese bombings, but also reflect on the 15,000 nuclear weapons currently stockpiled around the globe, “each more powerful than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” she said, and the legacy of nuclear waste contamination in their own country.

“Not only [those in] Japan are the victims, but in your own country so many people are suffering so much,” she said.

Barcelona Rehearsal

program notes for Wilderness Mute


How many times have I been in Nagasaki in the broiling sun of August 9th….at the stroke of 11:02, the sirens ring, the bells reply, and we citizens offer a silent prayer.  Even with all my empathic power, I cannot imagine that August day.  A sea of fire, flesh burning— the sudden agonies and depths of despair.  We who were not present cannot possibly understand this holocaust.


While checking the final instrument drafts of this work, the copyist asked me if I would like to insert a dedication to be placed under the title.  I hesitated, thinking of Sumiteru Taniguchi, a Nagasaki survivor who had died just ten days before.  A famous image of his wounded back rose to my mind: a boy with his skin burned horribly and an angry scarlet color.  Even as he worked as a postman in Nagasaki, he dedicated his life to activism to prohibit nuclear weapons.  A choice for the Nobel Peace Prize, he did not receive it despite his nomination in 2015.


However, for him this was no matter.  His message was unwavering for over seventy years:

"No more Hiroshima, no more Nagasaki, no more Hibakusha, no more war".


This phrase echoes in my work.


When he gave a lecture to students in New York, he showed them the image of his ruined back.  Many of them exclaimed “oh my God!” and took photos of that photo with their smartphones.  They asked if he had ever been apologized to by the United States, but he was resolute in his answer: "I am not here to be apologized to, I came here to insist on the total abolition of nuclear weapons".


Full of passion for his mission, and worrying incessantly about the future, his soul finally left his deeply injured body at the age of eighty-eight.  Despite the damage to his body, he always looked so beautiful and calm with pathos.  


There was a time when artists could foresee the future.  This kind of vision is vital.

We should not be incapable of our own distress. 

We need to look to that future, and make desperate efforts for it.

Sumiteru Taniguchi never appealed to pity.  He wanted us to never become victims.  

So I dedicate my music not to him, but to you.  To all of you whom he cared about.  His burned body was his testament: “I want you to understand, if only a little, the horror of nuclear weapons.”



Keiko Fujiie at Kyoto September 2017

LA-BAS OU ICI…“, projet interdisciplinaire en cours d’élaboration est un opéra en plusieurs langues, produit par Keiko Fujiie au Burkina Faso. Commencé en 2019, le projet en cours rassemble plusieurs cultures, langues et formes artistiques, tentant de créer une oeuvre d’art globale et ouverte. Keiko Fujiie et ses partenaires nous livrent en avant-première mondiale le premier acte de cet opéra.


Composition: Keiko Fujiie

libretto: Moyi MBOURANGON

Musiciens: Keiko Fujiie, Maboudou Sanou, Ibrahim Dembélé, Boureima Sanou

Video-art: Hervé Humbert


Keiko Fujiie est une compositrice internationale auteure de plusieurs opéras. Elle travaille actuellement à sa nouvelle création, un opéra en collaboration avec plusieurs musiciens traditionnels burkinabè. Avec ce projet, son expérience et sa connaissance profonde de la musique classique occidentale mais aussi de la musique traditionnelle de l’Asie de l’est, dialogue et se fond dans la musique ouest-africaine et son esprit.



【More information about this Project】

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