In its three years of existence, the Nu Deco Ensemble has become renowned for blending classical music with cutting-edge sounds, with concerts featuring works by acts such as Daft Punk, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, OutKast and Queen this season alone.
This weekend is no exception, as on Friday and Saturday night at the New World Center in Miami Beach, the genre-bending orchestra will present jazz violinist and indie-pop singer-songwriter Kishi Bashi’s world premiere of “Improvisations on EO 9066,” a multimedia piece inspired by the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
The night will also incorporate music by composer and DJ Mason Bates, Russian pianist-composer Dmitri Shostakovich, and seminal synth-pop band Depeche Mode. On the surface, the acts seem truly diverse, but they’re designed to reveal a common thread shared by electronic and classical music.
“Nu Deco has always been all about that, and so when I got the commission, they were really pushing for [the lineup],” said Kishi Bashi, real name Kaoru Ishibashi. “My sound is also electronic to some extent, so based on my music, they selected these pieces to complement it.”
“EO 9066” stands for Executive Order 9066, imposed by President Roosevelt 75 years ago, that gave the military the power to imprison the Japanese people living in America. As a member of a minority group in the United States, Kishi Bashi felt compelled to address the issue in an artistic way, many decades later.
“I guess when [President] Trump started doing a lot of executive orders himself that had far-reaching implications, especially on immigrants, it kind of hit in a very personal place for me,” he said, “because my parents were immigrants, and I’m Japanese-American as well.”
Based on the subject matter that inspired Kishi Bashi’s piece, one might expect the night to be somber and melancholy, but that’s only part of the story.
“It’s somewhat accurate because it is a grave event, a dark time in history,” he said. “But the more I look into the history of it, the more I see how resilient these people were, so a lot of my stories within the piece are pretty uplifting, inspiring stories. You know, about how they found love in the camps when they were incarcerated, or how despite all the discrimination and the prejudice back then, they kind of made the best for themselves and had these lives in the camps for a few years, and tried to rebuild after. So it’s more about connecting emotionally, good and bad.”
Adding to the evening’s emotional impact will be video musical performances from the sites, plus breathtaking cinematography.
“I took a filmmaker out to the incarceration sites, so I would play a piece on the violin or sing a song that I made up on the spot inspired by the events of the day,” said Kishi Bashi. “And I’m bringing those exact films and recorded moments into the concert hall with the orchestra accompanying it, and creating more inspiration off of that.”