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Funkzilla: Rumble in Neo Tokyo

FunkZilla_11x17_Poster Design.jpg

Funkzilla: Rumble in Neo Tokyo as you can probably tell from the title, is not your typical Wind Ensemble piece.  Funkzilla is an amalgamation of Japanese traditional music and Western Funk, into a fun and unique bombastic blend of two very different styles.  Ancient Japanese music consisted of four scales: Ryo, Ritsu, Yo, and Rin, which you can see pictured to the right.  The scales are made up of 7 pitches, just like Western music, but contain a "pentatonic core" (a collection of 5 primary notes), much like popular Funk music from the 70s and 80s.  This provided me with a perfect opportunity to mash-up the two genres into a wickedly fun composition.  


The piece begins with a virtuosic Baritone Sax cadenza, modeled after Charles Mingus's iconic work Moanin'.  After the solo, the drums enter with a 4 on floor bass drum pattern, punctuated with a funky groove on the toms.  With the groove laid down by drums and the Bari Sax laying down a bass groove, punchy brass hits combined with the Bassoon, Flute, and Alto Saxes playing melodic lines featuring the Rin scale, and a Harp part that mimics the Japanese string instrument the Koto bring the world of a futuristic Neo Tokyo to life. 


Funkzilla is written with several different sections that are meant to emulate different neighborhoods of Tokyo.  The first section, Shibuya, tries to emulate the business of the huge shopping district and the Shinjuku and Shibuya railway stations with driving 16th-note lines in the Flute, Trumpets, and Horns, and in the middle is the beautiful Meiji Jingu Shinto Temple, represented by the traditional melodic ideas in the Bassoon, Oboe, Alto Sax, and Harp.


Shibuya Crossing

The next stop is Ginza, which is a very popular upscale shopping district and one of the most expensive and luxurious streets in the world.  Ginza is represented by a harmonically rich and elegant section that focuses more on the chord changes than fast motives or traditional Japanese music.

It instead has a more Western style, influenced by the Meiji government when they designated Ginza as a "model of modernization."  Many leading fashion houses' flagship stores are located here, in the area with the highest concentration of Western shops in Tokyo.


The Akihabara district is well-known for its influence on otaku culture, which is an almost obsessive interest in anime and manga.  This section was directly influenced by the title track of the anime series Cowboy Bebop called Tank! written by the incredibly talented Yoko Kanno and includes several nods to the piece.

The final stop before a recapitulation of some of the previous sections is Harajuku, which is represented by more "out there" and bizarre musical ideas.  

Harajuku is known internationally as a center of Japanese youth culture and fashion that tend to feature more esoteric style choices and also includes many small, youth-oriented, independent boutiques and cafés.

Harajuku Fashion

Funkzilla: Rumble in Neo Tokyo is available for purchase through Alfred's online catalog at

Cover art for Funkzilla designed by Robert Crescenzio -

Cover art by

Robert Crescenzio

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