Release Date: October 25, 2019
Catalog #: RR8022
Format: Digital & Physical
21st Century
Vocal Music

Within my Soul


Akemi Naito composer

On WITHIN MY SOUL, New York-based composer Akemi Naito’s debut release on Ravello Records, the composer’s intent was to create a collection of musical works inspired by words. The poetry and prose that inspired the album’s three pieces were crafted by a trio of writers who transcend the boundaries of time and place: 19th-century British poet and novelist Emily Brontë; 20th-century Japanese novelist Kobo Abe; and Japanese monk-poet Saigyo (1118 – 1190).

The album’s first selection, Emily Brontë: Through Life and Death, A Chainless Soul, is a poetic mono-opera in one act, based on selected poems of Emily Brontë and scored for mezzo-soprano and piano. Opera Wire praised the performance, describing it as “a wonderful example of the beauty that can be found when words mingle with music, each giving the other new life and meaning.”

The Woman in the Dunes for Solo Percussionist was inspired by Japanese writer Kobo Abe’s novel, The Woman in the Dunes. Performed by percussionist Gregory Beyer, the music echoes Abe’s text, using metallic instruments centered on chromatic gongs to express the woman’s emotions and drum instruments to express the turmoil of the male character in the novel.

Five Waka poems by Saigyo was composed as part of famed marimbist Makoto Nakura’s Forest Trilogy project. It is based on the writings of the ancient monk-poet Saigyo, who expressed his free spirit in poems, inspired by nature, that even today continue to stimulate the imagination. On WITHIN MY SOUL, the work is performed by William Moersch on marimba and the University of Illinois Chamber Singers directed by Andrew Megill.

WITHIN MY SOUL is her third recording. Each composition, inspired by the words of Brontë, Abe, and Saigyo and performed by a stellar array of musicians, offers strong proof of the way great art, even as it is transformed by modern influences, endures over time.


Hear the full album on YouTube

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Through Life and Death, a Chainless Soul, Prologue: I'm Happiest When Most Away (Live) Akemi Naito Jessica Bowers, mezzo-soprano; Marilyn Nonken, piano 1:57
02 Through Life and Death, a Chainless Soul, Scene 1: Excerpt from Plead for Me (Live) Akemi Naito Jessica Bowers, mezzo-soprano; Marilyn Nonken, piano 0:53
03 Through Life and Death, a Chainless Soul, Scene 1: To Imagination (Live) Akemi Naito Jessica Bowers, mezzo-soprano; Marilyn Nonken, piano 6:33
04 Through Life and Death, a Chainless Soul, Scene 2: Excerpt from My Comforter (Live) Akemi Naito Jessica Bowers, mezzo-soprano; Marilyn Nonken, piano 1:47
05 Through Life and Death, a Chainless Soul, Scene 2: Anticipation (Live) Akemi Naito Jessica Bowers, mezzo-soprano; Marilyn Nonken, piano 12:28
06 Through Life and Death, a Chainless Soul, Scene 3: The Old Stoic (Live) Akemi Naito Jessica Bowers, mezzo-soprano; Marilyn Nonken, piano 3:26
07 Through Life and Death, a Chainless Soul, Scene 3: No Coward Soul Is Mine (Live) Akemi Naito Jessica Bowers, mezzo-soprano; Marilyn Nonken, piano 7:28
08 The Woman in the Dunes (Version for Solo Percussion) Akemi Naito Gregory Beyer, percussion 18:22
09 5 Waka Poems Akemi Naito University of Illinois Chamber Singers | Andrew Megill, conductor/director; William Moersch, marimba 8:59

Emily Brontë – Through Life and Death, A Chainless Soul
Poetic mono-opera in one act
Recorded live January 5 – 6, 2018 at the Tenri Gallery at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York City NY
Recording & Mixing Oktaven Audio
Video Documentation Cutting Bird Media
DVD Authoring DuArt
DVD Art Installation Toshihiro Sakuma
Published by Akemi Naito Music (ASCAP)

The Woman in the Dunes for Solo Percussionist
Inspired by Kobo Abe’s novel, The Woman in the Dunes
Recorded January 6 – 7, 2014 at the Recital Hall at the Northern Illinois University in DeKalb IL
Producer Alex Rolfe
Recording & Mixing Engineer Dan Nichols
Pre-mastering Engineer Ryan Streber
Published by HoneyRock

Five Waka poems by Saigyo
Recorded February 12, 2019 in the Foellinger Great Hall at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana IL
Recording Producers Andrea Solya, Charlotte Mattax Moersch
Recording Engineers Frank Horger, Graham Duncan
Published by Akemi Naito Music (ASCAP)

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Chris Robinson

VP, Audio Production Jeff LeRoy
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Mastering Shaun Michaud

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Sara Warner

Artist Information

Akemi Naito


Akemi Naito is a composer based in New York City. Born in Tokyo, she studied composition at the University Division of the Toho Gakuen School of Music and was a member of the school’s faculty from 1980 to 1991. Following her earlier activity as a composer in Tokyo, she received a grant from the Asian Cultural Council that enabled her to move to New York City in 1991.


Jessica Bowers


Jessica Bowers has performed with Utah Opera, Anchorage Opera, Opera Boston, Central City Opera, and Ohio Light Opera. Roles include Rosina in The Barber of Seville, Hansel in Hansel and Gretel, The Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music, Nicklausse in The Tales of Hoffmann, and The Queen in John Harbison’s A Full Moon in March. Recently she has performed with Cygnus Ensemble, Taconic Music, Poetica Musica, L’Artiste Ordinaire, Dali Quartet, Composers Concordance, and Satori Ensemble. Most frequently, she plays with guitarist Oren Fader as The Bowers Fader Duo, which produces the annual concert series “New American Art Songs for Mezzo and Guitar,” performed three times each year in New York City. Their debut album, Between Us All, was recently released on the Naxos label through New Focus Recordings. For more information, please visit

Photo © Cyjo Photography

Marilyn Nonken


Marilyn Nonken his recognized as “one of the greatest interpreters of new music” (American Record Guide). Her nearly 30 releases include Tristan Murail: Complete Piano Music, Voix Voilées: Spectral Music for Piano, and Morton Feldman: Triadic Memories. She records for Metier, New World, Mode, Lovely Music, Albany, Divine Art, Hanging Bell, Harrison House, Innova, CRI, BMOP Sound, New Focus, Kairos, Ravello, Tzadik, and Bridge. Composers who have written for her include Richard Carrick, Jason Eckardt, Michael Finnissy, Michael Kuehn, Tristan Murail, Christopher Trapani, and Nina C. Young. She is also known for her writings on music, which include The Spectral Piano: From Liszt, Scriabin and Debussy to the Digital Age (Cambridge, 2014) and Identity and Diversity in New Music: The New Complexities (Routledge, 2019). A graduate of the Eastman School, where she studied with David Burge, she received her Ph.D. from Columbia University. Now Associate Professor of Music at New York University, Nonken is a Steinway Artist.

Photo © Ventiko

Toshihiro Sakuma

visual artist

Born in the Miyagi prefecture in Japan in 1957, Toshihiro Sakuma completed graduate school at the Tokyo University of the Arts, receiving his M.F.A. in 1982.

Sakuma started a quiet installation art series called “healing” in 1993. He regarded exquisitely dimmed light bulbs’ ON/OFF as the ON/OFF of life. He placed them in items used in daily living such as old furniture, futons, family trees, and vinyl houses, meant to remind viewers of the chain and disconnection of life.

In 1998, Sakuma started a series called “colony” that switched light bulbs to people’s names, pouring a huge number of people’s names into books, nameplate boards, old televisions, gauze, etc. and visualizing the relationship between the individuals and the aggregate. He aimed to create a virtual space that recalled the absence of human beings.

In the series called “Adhesion/Replacement” that started in 2003, Sakuma collected countless images and movies from prints, TVs, and websites, superimposed them as “once existed” spiritual images, processed them, and constructed a video/photo installation works.


Gregory Beyer


Gregory Beyer: Fulbright Scholar, composer, educator, and “prodigiously talented percussionist” (Chicago Classical Review), Gregory Beyer is a contemporary music specialist who blends the disciplines of orchestral, jazz, and world music into a singular artistic voice. He is Artistic Director of Arcomusical, an organization dedicated to the Afro-Brazilian berimbau. Arcomusical released its first album, MeiaMeia, in 2016 on Innova Recordings and has subsequently appeared on WNYC, WBEZ, and NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. Arcomusical received a 2016 Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Grant to create the 20-minute, four-movement “Roda” with composer Elliot Cole. “Roda” has received over two dozen performances and most recently was performed as a concerto with the Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra as “Roda Grande.” In March 2019 on National Sawdust Tracks, Arcomusical released its second album, Spinning in the Wheel.

Beyer is Director of Percussion Studies at Northern Illinois University and is a core member of two Chicago-based new music ensembles: Dal Niente and the CCCC’s Grossman Ensemble.

Photo © Percussive Arts Society International Convention 2017

The University Of Illinois Chamber Singers


The University Of Illinois Chamber Singers is the premiere choral ensemble at the University, comprised of experienced and outstanding singers from across the entire student body. The ensemble, conducted by Dr. Andrew Megill, explores a broad range of choral music, from Medieval chant to newly commissioned works, while demonstrating the highest level of musical excellence. Performances in past seasons have included collaborations with Bang on a Can All Stars, Venice Baroque Orchestra, Champaign Urbana Symphony Orchestra, Urbana 415, and a performance tour of Vienna and Budapest with the Anton Webern Chor of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. The Chamber Singers share a passion for enriching the lives of their audiences and the University community, regularly reaching out to connect with public school programs and concert series across the state.

soprano Lauren Falk, Elizabeth Gartman, Kirsten Hedegaard, Berit Johnson, Jessica Ragsdale, Katherine Stenzel, Grace Thompson, Lydia Walsh-Rock, Maggie Wolfe

alto Sadie Cheslak, Carolee Fairbanks, Olivia Gronenthal, Sofia Imbimbo, Kathy Kew Lee, Cami Philgreen, Geoffrey Williams, Michaela Wright

tenor Jon Arnold, Christopher Mason, Connor Pils, Long Tao Tang, Simon Tiffin, Andrew Turner, Mark Woodcock

bass Michael Brand, Jonathan Cortez, Scott Cuva, Scott Knier, Nic Koch, Kevin Lucas, Geoffrey Schmelzer

Photo © Aaron Godwin

Andrew Megill


Andrew Megill is recognized as one of the leading choral conductors of his generation. He currently teaches at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and conducts three of North America’s finest professional vocal ensembles: the Montreal Symphony Orchestra Chorus, the Carmel Bach Festival Chorale, and Fuma Sacra. His performances have been praised for their “power, subtlety, and nuance” and “profound spirituality” (Le Devoir, Montreal), and have been described as “piercing the heart like a frozen knife” (Monterey Herald) and “leaving the audience gasping in amazement” (Classical NJ).

Megill frequently collaborates with the world’s leading orchestras. He has prepared choirs for the American Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonie, Montreal Symphony, National Symphony, and the New York Philharmonic for conductors including Boulez, Dutoit, Flummerfelt, Frühbeck du Burgos, Gilbert, Glover, Neeme Järvi, Masur, Mehta, Nagano, Nelson, and Julius Rudel. An accomplished orchestral conductor, he has led the Montreal Symphony, Spoleto Festival Orchestra, Carmel Bach Festival Orchestra, and I Musici de Montréal as well as the Bang on a Can All-Stars.


William Moersch


William Moersch is Professor and Chair of Percussion at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Internationally renowned as a marimba virtuoso, chamber and symphonic percussionist, recording artist, and educator, he has appeared as soloist with orchestras and in recital throughout North and South America, Europe, the Far East, and Australia. A regularly featured artist at international percussion festivals, Moersch has performed on more than 70 recordings and is perhaps best known for commissioning much of the prominent modern repertoire for marimba. He has been honored by National Endowment for the Arts Recording and Consortium Commissioning grants and was the first marimbist to receive an N.E.A. Solo Recitalist Fellowship. Currently, he is Principal Timpanist of Sinfonia da Camera and the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of New Music Marimba, and an Artist Endorser for Pearl / Adams Percussion, SABIAN cymbals, Grover Pro Percussion, and Innovative Percussion mallets.

photo © University of Illinois School of Music


This album features three works inspired by literature: a poetic mono-opera based on selected poems by Emily Brontë; The Woman in the Dunes for Solo Percussionist, inspired by Kobo Abe’s novel, The Woman in the Dunes; and Five Waka poems by Saigyo, which sets waka poems by Saigyo, an ancient monk-poet. I am deeply fascinated by these profound texts, each from a different era. The focal concept of this album was composing music to merge with the texts.

— Akemi Naito

Emily Brontë – Through Life and Death, A Chainless Soul, is a poetic mono-opera in one act, based on selected poems of Emily Brontë and scored for mezzo-soprano and piano. I wanted to express Emily Brontë herself in this work, using her poetry as the text. Because of the extraordinarily powerful inner voice that resonates in her texts, I felt that it would serve as the perfect source for my libretto. I have felt a deep connection to Brontë’s poetry for decades. Knowing that 2018 would be the bicentennial of her birth, the composition of this mono-drama seemed a natural way to celebrate her life and work.

I choose seven poems by Emily Brontë as my libretto, and divided them into a prologue and three scenes. Each scene consists of two poems. I selected these poems in order to clearly express Emily Brontë’s unique creativity. Using very simple language, her inner spirit soars freely, far from the mundane world. It is a most remarkable phenomenon, wherein I sense a certain timelessness that can be found only in profound artistic expression. It is this spirit I aim to encompass in my music.

The role of Emily was written for mezzo-soprano accompanied by piano. I read that Emily played the piano very well. This motivated me even more to compose a piano setting.

Hoping to create a stage/performance space in collaboration with a visual artist, I contacted installation artist Toshihiro Sakuma, because the core of his art, “inochi”– meaning life that continues to exist in memory – would be a perfect fit for this project.

Sakuma’s installation consists of a ring with an approximately 4.2 meter diameter which is formed by about three hundred light bulbs placed around the center of the stage, and a video projection onto the front wall of the stage behind the ring. The ring shape suggests an eternal circle. I perceive it as a cosmic image, symbolizing the temporal passage from the past to the future. It inspired me to create the stage directions. The video projection embodies two simple concepts, pouring rain and rising luminous points. It enhances the atmosphere within the space, in which can be sensed the feeling of Brontë herself.

Emily Brontë – Through Life and Death, A Chainless Soul is performed by mezzo-soprano Jessica Bowers and pianist Marilyn Nonken in a live videotaped recording of the January 2018 premiere performance at the Tenri Gallery of the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York City, included as a DVD in this album. Since the work is a theatrical presentation, the DVD is the ideal vehicle to convey the visual as well as audio components of the performance. The DVD represents my special tribute to Emily Brontë.

— Akemi Naito

The Woman in the Dunes for Solo Percussionist – inspired by Kobo Abe’s novel, The Woman in the Dunes – was commissioned jointly by the American percussionist Gregory Beyer and the Japanese percussionist Mizuki Aita. It is scored for a large set of percussion instruments, including twenty Thai chromatic gongs. The release of Beyer’s recording has been a long-awaited goal.

The work was first created as a multimedia theater piece combining music, video, and theatrical performance, and was performed in 2009 at the Flea Theater in New York City and the School of Music Recital Hall at Northern Illinois University. This recording presents a new concert version of the work. The music symbolically echoes Abe’s text. I used a group of metallic instruments centered on chromatic gongs to express the woman’s emotions, and a group of drum instruments with the bongo and conga at its core to express the turmoil of the man who is trying to escape. Ultimately, however, I wanted to express the sand world that spreads through and beyond such contrasts.

— Akemi Naito

Five Waka poems by Saigyo was composed as part of Makoto Nakura’s Forest Trilogy project for marimba and mixed chorus. Waka is the oldest Japanese poetic form, and Saigyo (1118–1190) was a monk-poet who lived about 900 years ago. Inspired by nature, Saigyo traveled throughout his life, expressing his free spirit in poems that today continue to stimulate our imagination. This work has been performed in the United States, Japan, and Europe. It was a fascinating experience to hear it sung by a non-Japanese choir, because their diction enhanced the beauty of the syllables. I greatly appreciate the participation in the recording of marimba virtuoso William Moersch and director Andrew Megill, as well as the choir members.

Creating this album embodies my vision of composing a collection of works inspired by text as the focal concept. Each text by Brontë, Abe, and Saigyo exists as a strong example of how great art endures over time. That idea captured my imagination and encouraged me to work with this great legacy.

— Akemi Naito


I’m happiest when most away
I can bear my soul from its home of clay
On a windy night when the moon is bright
And the eye can wander through worlds of light—

When I am not and none beside—
Nor earth nor sea nor cloudless sky—
But only spirit wandering wide
Through infinite immensity.

Scene 1:
Excerpt from PLEAD FOR ME
(1844 – age 26)

Why I have persevered to shun
The common paths that others run;
And on a strange road journeyed on
Heedless alike of Wealth and Power—
Of Glory’s wreath and Pleasure’s flower.

(1844 – age 26)
When weary with the long day’s care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost, and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again—
O my true friend, I am not lone
While thou canst speak with such a tone!

So hopeless is the world without,
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world where guile and hate and doubt
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou and I and Liberty
Have undisputed sovereignty.

What matters it that all around
Danger and grief and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom’s bound
We hold a bright unsullied sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?

Reason indeed may oft complain
For Nature’s sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy newly blown.

But thou art ever there to bring
The hovering visions back and breathe
New glories o’er the blighted spring
And call a lovelier life from death,
And whisper with a voice divine
Of real worlds as bright as thine.

I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet still in evening’s quiet hour
With never-failing thankfulness
I welcome thee, benignant power,
Sure solacer of human cares
And brighter hope when hope despairs.

Scene 2:
Excerpt from MY COMFORTER
(1844 – age 25)
Deep down—concealed within my soul,
That light lies hid from men,
Yet glows unquenched—though shadows roll,
Its gentle ray can not control—
About the sullen den.

(1845 – age 26)
How beautiful the Earth is still
To thee—how full of Happiness;
How little fraught with real ill
Or shadowy phantoms of distress;

How Spring can bring thee glory yet
And Summer win thee to forget
December’s sullen time!
Why dost thou hold the treasure fast
Of youth’s delight, when youth is past
And thou art near thy prime?

When those who were thy own compeers,
Equal in fortunes and in years,
Have seen their morning melt in tears,
To dull unlovely day;
Blest, had they died unproved and young
Before their hearts were wildly wrung,
Poor slaves, subdued by passions strong,
A weak and helpless prey!

“Because, I hoped while they enjoyed,
And by fulfillment, hope destroyed—
As children hope, with trustful breast,
I waited Bliss and cherished Rest.

“A thoughtful Spirit taught me soon
That we must long till life be done;
That every phase of earthly joy
Will always fade and always cloy—

“This I foresaw, and would not chase
The fleeting treacheries,
But with firm foot and tranquil face
Held backward from the tempting race,
Gazed o’er the sands the waves efface
To the enduring seas—

“There cast my anchor of Desire
Deep in unknown Eternity;
Nor ever let my Spirit tire
With looking for What is to be.

“It is Hope’s spell that glorifies
Like youth to my mature eyes
All Nature’s million mysteries—
The fearful and the fair—

“Hope soothes me in the griefs I know,
She lulls my pain for others’ woe
And makes me strong to undergo
What I am born to bear.

“Glad comforter, will I not brave
Unawed the darkness of the grave?
Nay, smile to hear Death’s billows rave,
My Guide, sustained by thee?
The more unjust seems present fate
The more my Spirit springs elate
Strong in thy strength, to anticipate
Rewarding Destiny!

Scene 3:
(1841 – age 22)

Riches I hold in light esteem
And Love I laugh to scorn
And lust of Fame was but a dream
That vanished with the morn—

And if I pray, the only prayer
That moves my lips for me
Is—“Leave the heart that now I bear
And give me liberty.”

Yes, as my swift days near their goal
‘Tis all that I implore—
Through life and death, a chainless soul
With courage to endure!

(1846 – age 27)
No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven’s glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear

O God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men’s hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality

With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears

Though Earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee

There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

Five Waka poems by Saigyo


sora ni naru
kokoro wa haru no
kasumi nite
yo ni araji tomo
omoitatsu kana

Awakening in mind,
My heart like a spring
The thought of stepping out of the world
Strikes me.


koko o mata
ware sumiukute
matsu wa hitori ni
naran to suran

Here again
When I grow restless and
Must drift away, then
Pine tree
You’ll be left all alone.


fukaki yama ni
sumikeru tsuki o
omoide mo naki
waga mi naramashi

Deep within the mountains
Shine brightly the moon.
Never to have seen it
Would be like having no remembrance


hana ni somu
kokoro no ikade
sutehateteki to
omou waga mi ni

Colored by cherry blossoms,
How is it my heart
Is still moved?
Free from the world
I thought I had become…


Yoshino yama
kozo no shiori no
michi kaete
mada minukata no
hana o tazunen

Mount Yoshino!
Turning from previous paths of marked branches,
I take a new direction
Toward yet unseen blossoms
To pay a visit.

Translation by Akemi Naito with assistance by Helen Nagata


Akemi Naito: poetic mono-opera, Emily Brontë, excerpt (1)

Greg Beyer plays “The Woman in the Dunes” by Akemi Naito