Message from Frank

Greetings to everyone, and Happy New Year!
May this new year bring new experieces,visions and revelations... may you know health and  harmony, within and without... may you come to know yourself in a wise and welcoming way.

For me, anticipating a new beginning is always balanced by recollecting what has been  completed, what has come and is now gone. Being that 2022 was such a dynamic and  fascinating year for me, I thought I would offer an invitation to recollect with me my  journeys in Japan over the last 6 months.

In the past, all of my visits to Japan were as a tourist. However,my collaborative work with  artist Jun Yonezawa, which during the pandemic I could only do remotely, began to pick up  in intensity, and in order for us to work together in person, the possibility of securing a  cultural visa became my goal.  In May of last year that actually became a reality, I was  bestowed a cultural visa for one year!
Needless to say, I was thrilled. The purpose was to work with Jun and to also immerse  myself in Japanese culture, as well as to take opportunities  to present myself in various  ways as a musical artist.
I'd like to think that this has been a successful adventure and thought I would share some  of the  high points of what has been a most fascinating time.


Here is a view of the Charles River from my hotel in  Boston. I live in New York, and almost  always fly from there, but the local airports were so busy that summer that I drove up to  Boston. Not really an inconvenience at all, in that it's actually my favorite city. Logan  airport  was clean, efficient and a pretty pleasant experience, even the PCR test wasn't all  that bad. And the night before the flight I found out I had won the auction on JAL to be  upgraded to business class. The best flight to Japan I have ever taken... three cheers for  JAL!

So here I was, finally... Otaru! Mission accomplished. I had visited Jun and her family quite a  few times in the past,and never fail to be impressed with the charm and culture of Otaru

My first weekend coincided with a festival honoring the sea gods... A quick immersion into a  very different culture; sense of community and ritual two of the many things I appreciate  and  respect about Japan.

One of the great things about being in Otaru, j ust walking around is the best activity, each  street has it's own personality... it's really quite stunning in it's diversity.

America is always praised for it's diversity, particularly ethnic diversity. It's true, sort of...  but  there is a 'sameness' To US culture that is always very difficultto avoid. In Japan, of  course it is a more homogenous society, but I find if you look closely,  a tremendous of  variety abounds.

In Otaru, that is certainly the case..

Here is Shuji Yonezawa and a very jet lagged me by the Sea of Japan.

Initially in my travels to Japan, I spent time in major cities, Tokyo, Kyoto,Nagoya... My work  and friendship with Jun and her family brought me to her home in Otaru, my first exposure  to the breathtaking scenery in Hokkaido.

This is a view from M. Tenguyama, just above where I live with the family. In this pic, note  the bandages on my hands...  I had just had long overdue hand surgery in Sapporo, and was  healing up. Thankfully,I had a great surgeon there and all turned out well, just in time for my  concerts in October.

Having a cultural visa actually made me a temporary resident of Otaru city and Japan. I  have  been able to access the medical system here. I've been impressed! It's quite different  from the states,and naturally a little more bureaucratic, but overall I find the expertise and  efficiency of the doctors and staff pretty great! It's strange being in a foreign country for  these services but I felt very comfortable taken care of.

Shakotan peninsula... truly amazing sight.


In 2019, I started composing music for a very special show,a one person recitation of the  novel, "Night Train to the MilkyWay" by Kenji Miyazawa.  In collaboration withJun Yonezawa's  artwork, I wrote 7 atmospheric pieces for small ensemble and piano. Of course, during  the  pandemic, while 11 performances were taking place in Saitama, Kyoto and Sapporo, I  could only receive reports as to how everything was going, and how the music was working  for the production. My fondest hope was that I would get a chance to see and hear a  production, and in September in Morioka City, (Miyazawa-san's hometown) I finally  witnessed  the performance, and saw the fruit of our labors...such a beautiful show!

It was really a treat to spend some time In Morioka City. It has the most peculiar vibe, in a  good way. There is something in the air, that speaks to unseen influences, another-worldli-ness...something from the past. Walking through the parks and along the river, one feels a  sense, a presence, of Miyazawa-san, and the rather surreal, enigmatic perspective that  shines in his narratives.

The Miyazawa museum in Morioka

The site of the theatre, a converted sake distillery


The Yonezawa family have a very cool establishment in Otaru, a fast- becoming iconic  restaurant that not only offers wonderful food, but often features musical performances of  various types. It is appropriately named, "Muse" . Folded snugly into the funky laid-back  atmosphere is a quite nice piano, and naturally, me doing a small concert there was a happy  choice for me.

What surprised me was another opportunity which came at the same time, by way of one of  Jun's friends, Yukie. She is a masterful classical pianist and a lovely person, and she  arranged for me to play at another concert venue, this one in BiBai, Hokkaido, about one  hour drive from Sapporo. "Arte Piazza BiBai" is a beautiful outdoor sculpture museum  showcasing the amazing marble and bronze forms of the artist, Yasuda Kan. It is a setting  which speaks of silence, subtlety, and reverence for nature in all it's creative form. I was  fortunate to see, and quite humbled by, such a warm and receptive audience.This was  rather  special for me - my first solo concert in many years, one I could only imaginally  prepare for during the pandemic. The piano was great, the sound system was wonderful and  the reception was all I could have hoped for. ( And not one of the seemingly hundreds of  kamemushi flew into my mouth!)  My great thanks to Yukie for allowing me such a special  musical re-birth here in Japan!

Concert hall and grounds

A welcome respite from the anxious activities leading up to the concerts was avisit to  Kourakuen onsen in Otaru, arriving at the perfect time of year. The autumn foliage was just  starting to color, providing the perfect backdrop to a classic Japanese garden... It really has  to be seen to be appreciated, but here are a few images.


One of my strongest intentions, if I ever got to Japan again, was to do some music  recording. Way back in 2019, In Tokyo, I had met and played with two very exceptional  musicians, Satoshi Ishikawa on drums, and Ryoji Orihara on bass. Iwas totally blown away by  our instantaneous chemistry , and what I wanted to do was spend more time playing  together and hear how some new original songs of mine might shape up. Well, what  happened  was two days of rehearsal and 2 days of recording later , we had pulled together  the rhythm tracks for 6 new songsthat I will feature on my new album, hopefully completed  by the Spring/Summer 2023.

It was very gratifying to witness this dream of mine actually manifest. The uniquestyles of  Satoshi-san  and Ryoji-san complemented my songs beautifully,and I'm so looking forward  to  playing together again in live settings.

And hey, what's better than recording original music on your BIRTHDAY? Thank you guys  for being so thoughtful..

Ofcourse, that "71" is simply a tribute to one of my older songs... no really, it is. Right...?

Just as that project was finishing up, Jun Yonezawa was starting an exhibition ofher work at  the Keio Hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo which was to run for 9 days. As with many of her previous  shows, Jun featured my music as a sound-track to the exhibition. I had been composing  short ensemble works and piano improvisations inspired by her artwork for many years, but  like everything the pandemic constrained, I had never had the chance to be physically  present, and had been limited to digital recordings. But my stay here now allowed for in  person collaboration.

     We had started to discuss a new perspective on creating together that we were calling, 'The Synesthesia Project'. Synesthesia is an inherent trait shared by many people whereby  a  blending of sense impressions occurs; Synesthetes hear colors, and some see sounds  and  music. Jun had always created artwork as a response to my music, and I had always  created music in response to her art.What we could now do was to try to create in real  time  improvisational response to each other. So, as she created, I would respond to her art  musically, and then she would respond to that, and so on;  similar to a 'call and response'  dynamic in jazz, where two musicians dialogue with each other. Except we were doing it in  two different mediums. The Keio exhibition was a great success and the premier  presentation of our first Synesthesia work, "One"



Soin truth, I was prepared for the snow in Otaru. I had seen pictures over the years, had  even been here for a light dusting in 2019, so picturesque... And I do enjoy winter, and live  in  a very rural area of NY which get's a lot of snow.I'm so used to snow shoveling, and  digging out cars...  I was ready for whatever came down in December. In fact, I was looking  forward to it!


When we say snow, I'm not convinced so far that that is the most accurate word for what  happens here in Hokkaido, when white stuff starts falling from the sky.

This phenomenon seems to deserve another appellation; snow it is, but more like snow on  steroids.

      It is quite impressive the amount that has accumulated over the last month.Pretty  much daily, with some occasional breaks, it is just what happens here,and Otaru residents  are equally impressive in their adaption to what this timeof the year demands. What in New  York would be a major blizzard, grumbled about and suffered through for days, impacting  power and heat, and making driving impossible, here is just another day... requiring some  adjustment, but life simply goes on. Everyone continues to drive over the snow packed  roads, take the on-time busses and trains, as in any other season. No complaints, just start  shoveling.

But honestly, once I got used to it, I began to deeply appreciate the spectacular depth of  beauty that is contained within this natural environment.  It is not an image one usually  holds when thinking of Japan, at least not me. Northern Japan is quite like another country  entirely. Proximity to Russia is no accident; parts of the USA of course will see major snow  as well. I think for me what makes this environment so unique is that it is still Japan, with  all  the cultural accouterments that go along. Tokyo and Sapporo share the same national  DNA... it is just so interesting and admirable  to see that portrayed in this environment. It is  the spirit of Ganbaru, to endure. I continue to be impressed with the resiliency of the  Japanese people.

And as far as the shoveling goes, I actually do need more exercise.

Wishing Everyone a Warm and cozy Winter!