Kaizo Mario (Homage to Roland Dyens), Op. 55

The Japanese word “kaizo,” meaning “reconstruct,” has been used for decades to refer to the practice of hacking the code of extant video games to essentially create fresh and individualistic artistic statements. The classic Nintendo games starring the iconic (and by my estimation, morally depraved) character of Mario are popular targets of this practice, especially Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super Famicom in Japan). There is a large community of live streamers on the Twitch platform dedicated to playing and speedrunning these concoctions (my alter-ego lungfish3000, who streams at twitch.tv/lungfish3000, may or may not be one of these people—his exploits are bountiful but unfortunately outside of the purview of these program notes).

I chose Kaizo Mario as a title because much like the aforementioned games, which frequently invigorate extant technological archaisms into performing unintended effects and processes, my guitar writing for this piece utilizes guitar gizmos that go beyond the normal fare of plucks and strums. Of course, there is a wide ranging historical repertoire doing exactly the same things I do in this piece—I make no claims to have innovated in this case. To this point, my extended technique usage I found to be particularly Roland Dyens-y, and truth be told, once I noticed this in the compositional process, I definitely leaned into that musical quality.

Having interacted very briefly but nonetheless being moved by his presence and his transcendent playing at a guitar conference in New Milford, Connecticut in the 2000’s, I felt his influence was powerful enough to mention in the parenthetical portion of the piece’s title.

Dyens absolutely paid his dues in tribute to those before him (I’m thinking of the homages to Villa-Lobos and Frank Zappa specifically), and I felt an artistic and even spiritual necessity to do the same for him—he passed into the beyond with still more music yet to give. Thank you maestro.

Click below to purchase the full score.