"The Japanese society of the eighth century was extremely internationalized and integrated with the rest of Asia. Foreigners comprised much of the skilled labor force and, like England in the 16th and 17th centuries, there was an active exchange of artists, musicians and statesmen with the mainland. It is one of my dreams to re-create an active musical exchange with the rest of Asia."

So speaks Minoru Miki, one of Japan's most successful and prolific composers. Miki helped found Orchestra Asia in 1993 as a step toward realizing this dream. The orchestra brings together various traditional musical forms from China, Japan and Korea. The instruments of these countries, like the people, belong to the same family but have developed differently in their adopted countries. Although they maintain many similarities, until Asia Orchestra came along, there were no serious attempts to write compositions for ensembles that included all the instruments.

The beginning was not easy. Like distant relatives gathering for a family reunion, there was both harmony and disharmony among the various instruments and styles. Due to the lack of a repertory, Miki had to compose pieces based on traditional folk and art songs from each country. There was also a problem with varying competence levels among musicians as the orchestra included inexperienced performers as well as veteran artists.