is a Japanese composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...
The marimba is a musical instrument in the percussion family. It consists of a set of wooden keys or bars with resonators. The bars are struck with mallets to produce musical tones. The keys are arranged as those of a piano, with the accidentals raised vertically and overlapping the natural keys ...
player. She has been a primary figure in the development of the marimba, in terms of expanding both technique and repertoire, and through her collaboration with the Yamaha musical instrument company, developed the modern five-octave concert marimba.
Born in Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...
, Japan, Abe began playing the xylophone while in elementary school. She studied xylophone with Eiichi Asabuki in Tokyo. At age 13, she won an NHK talent contest and began performing professionally on live radio. She attended Tokyo Gakugei University where she completed a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Music Education. She began working in the Columbia Japan, NHK and other recording studios while in college.
In 1962, she and two friends (who were also students of Asabuki) founded the Xebec Marimba Trio, performing popular music, arrangements of folk songs and some of Abe's arrangements. They recorded more than seven albums between 1962 and 1966. During this period she had her own show on Japanese television, instructing schoolchildren in xylophone
The xylophone is a musical instrument in the percussion family that consists of wooden bars struck by mallets...
playing, as well as a radio show called "Good Morning Marimba". She also began her recording career with a bang, putting out 13 albums in a five-year span.
In 1963, the Yamaha Corporation sought Japanese marimba players to assist in the design of their new instruments; Keiko Abe was chosen for her original and clear ideas of the marimba sound and design, particularly her concept of how the marimba should be able to blend in ensembles, for example, moving away from the inconsistencies and lack of focus of folk percussion instruments. Her ideas for the desired sound of the instruments guided Yamaha's design, and in the 1970s began production. In addition, at her urging, the range of the new marimba was stretched from four octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...
s to five, which has become the standard for soloists. Abe has been closely associated with Yamaha ever since, and their first ever signature series of keyboard percussion mallets bears her name.
Her compositions, including "Michi", "Variations on Japanese Children's Songs", and "Dream of the Cherry Blossoms", have become standards of the marimba repertoire. Abe is active in promoting the development of literature for the marimba, not only by writing pieces herself, but also by commissioning works by other composers and encouraging young composers. She has added at least 70 compositions to the repertoire. She uses improvisation as an important element in developing her musical ideas which she then uses in her compositions.
In addition to her heavy composing, touring, and recording schedule, Abe has been a lecturer, then professor, at the Toho Gakuen School of Music
is a private conservatoire located in Chōfu, Tokyo, Japan.-History:Toho Gakuen was founded in 1948 in Kudan as a music school for children, and two years later opened the Toho High School of Music, to provide quality musical education to teenage girls. 1955 saw the establishment of the Junior...
in Tokyo since 1970. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1993.
She uses the YM-6000 Marimba made by Yamaha.
Her music is mainly published by Xebec Music Publishing and Schott, Japan.