Sunday, June 19, 2011

Shanghai, China March 1-June 19 Week 14

As my time in Shanghai quickly nears to a close, I find myself in a mad rush to finish up a number of composition projects. So far I have been able to stay on my proposed schedule. There is no time for sightseeing or spending in inordinate amount of time to make a “perfect” decision. Composition, after all, is simply a process of making countless numbers of decisions. At this point, I can’t wait for inspiration, as the deadlines are quickly approaching. In some ways these are self-imposed deadlines, because once I go to Korea on June 19th I don’t anticipate having access to a piano or having time to compose for five weeks. The first two weeks I’ll be attending the International Gugak Workshop (June 19th-July 2nd), followed by the International College Music Conference (July 3rd-10th). After returning from Gyeongu on July 11th I’ll begin my kagagum studies with Ji-Young Yi. 
This week (May 30th-June 5th) I began work on a new composition project, a solo 21-string koto piece for my AURA-J colleague Erina Matsumura. No sooner than I was contemplating whether not to write to Erina and tell her that I couldn’t finish the piece in time for her CD recording session in the middle of June (yikes!) than the piece came. It is a bit minimalist in nature, which suits the kind of piece that she was hoping for. Like Summer Dances and Frolicking with the Birds the piece employs extensive use of mixed meter and is based on a bouncy ostinato that become the primary motive for the piece. There are some really interesting moments rhythmically in the piece and it has a distinct form that should be readily transmitted upon a first hearing. Although there was a time when I insisted that through-composed compositions were my “form” of choice because I actively sought to rebel against traditional forms, these days I have embraced form and emphasized its importance,–not necessarily traditional forms like sonata or rondo–and I believe that this has made a difference in the quality of my creative work. At any rate, I entitled the piece Shadows of the Flames (炎影)and sent it off to Erina yesterday. Erina asked for a piece that was 7-8 minutes long, but once I poured my self into the work and really began concentrating it practically composed itself. It is 9 minutes. The coda is quite flashy and the piece ends with a bang. I’m confident that Erina will enjoy this work. 

So now I have two more works to compose with a two-week period. I’m not sure if these projects will be the most difficult. I’ve already developed quite a momentum. Mercifully, each of these pieces have a text for me to set, and this always makes the task just a bit easier. However, one of these pieces involves an instrumentation that I’m not familiar with–handbells. This is a commission from the Ernest Bloch Handbell Choir and Anchor Bay Children’s Choir and will also include a solo shakuhachi. The text is by my favorite Japanese poet, Tanikawa Shuntarô, and is entitled “Homework.” 
With eyes closed,
I saw God.
When I peeked,
God vanished.
My homework will be to find out whether I can see God with my eyes wide open.
As you can see, it is a quite simple but beautiful and powerful text. I also believe that the message is so lucid that it will transmit well to the children. The title of the poem was one of the reasons I chose this particular text, since it will be sung by a children’s choir. How would an adult choir relate to the work “homework”? Do you know what I mean?
The other piece is entitled 光を花と散らす(Scattering light, scattering flowers) and is based on a contemporary noh-inspired poem written by Mika Kimula’s colleague Haruka (Saori) Nakanishi. This piece will be for soprano, 25-string koto, and shakuhachi (2.1, pitched in B). It will be performed on August 30th in Tokyo.


雲を分け 舟路を渡り 山を越え
草枕 夕べを重ね旅寝かな
これは旅の僧にて候 今宵も月下の仮の宿
うら淋しくも 荒れ果つる城に辿りつきにけり
思ひぞ出づる月影の 思ひぞ出づる月影の
昔恋しや この城の 月のみ満ちて・・・
不思議やな この荒城に人の気配のすなり
いかに これなる尉殿 御身はこの辺の人か
さん候 この城の守人にて候
月の光に誘はれて 遥々来たりしお僧に
や 月こそ出でて候へ
昔この城の主は 海浜の景色を
思ひ重なる年なみの 流るる月の影惜しき
忘れて年を経しものを また古にかへる波音
松に吹き来る風も狂じて あら 昔恋しや
深淵から天体へ つながる想ひなほ深く
月の都を海原にうつし 月下の遊舞面白き
海底に伏す魚は 深淵とひとつとなりて
やがて 月を観る
舞を舞ひ 舞に舞はれて 秋の夜の
ながめわたせば 明月の
浦風に心も澄みて 舞ひに舞ひ
舞に舞はれて 死と生の あいだを舞ひて
あら 名残惜しの舞姿
名残惜しの 舞姿
舞を舞ひ 舞に舞はれて

Scattering light, scattering flowers 
Traveling priest--- waki
Coming through the clouds, coming across the seas and over the mountains, 
I live night after night on journey with the grasses my pillow.  
I am a traveling Buddhist. This evening again, I have come to a temporary lodging in the moonlight, 
That is this, deserted, ruined castle.
Chorus/narrator(s)--- ji-utai:
Moonlight invites the memories of old days,
In which the castle rises. 
How beautiful it must have been in dear old days!  Now there is nothing but moonlight that fills in the castle...   

Traveling priest – waki
How wondrous!  I feel somebody is in the castle.  
Who is it?  Man, are you a neighbor around here?
Old man – shite, as mae-jite:
Certainly.  I am a caretaker of this castle.  
Invited by the moonlight, I came out here for the priest who came visit here all the way from afar,
to tell him a story of old days.  
Look!  The moon appears!
Long ago, the lord of this castle (was such an elegant aesthete who) transferred a gorgeous landscape of seashore to inside his castle. 
Years passed with memories and I miss all the moonlight passed by here.  
One forgets and makes his time go ahead though, the sound of waves repeats as if it taking me back to the past.
The wind blowing through the pine trees dances hilariously (to evoke me).  
Oh, how dear my old days!   
(The old man returned to the image of when he was young and alive.)
Lord Tohru, young prince transformed from an old man – shite, as nochi-jite:
From the abyss to the heavenly body, the minds of lives are deeply linked with each other. 
The Capital of the Moon reflects on the sea. How delightful to dance in the moonlight!
Birds stay in the trees at the beach and 
Fish sleep on the waves in the moonlight. 
The fish laid the bottom in the sea are unified themselves with the abyss, from where
They look up the moon. 
What reflects in their eyes would be my image, the image of 
The Moon Prince whose name will be heard even in the far-off future.
(Haya-mai, rapid dance)

Tohru+ Chorus/narrator(s):
Clouds are my sleeves on which the snow falls around.  
Dancing a dance and the dance making me dance in this autumn night, 
I look all around and find the clear moon
Scatters its light that looks like flower petals, down on the world, 
My heart is getting clear with the sea breeze while I dancing a dance and the dance making me dance, Dancing in between the life and the death,

Dancing in between (the abyss and the heavenly body).
Yet, the moon stays still high above the heaven and
The water stays still deep in the sea.  
The moonlight moves along the dancer’s sleeves
When the dawn has already come with clouds and raining.
Oh, what a dear image of him dancing!
What a dear image of him dancing!
He dancing a dance and the dance making him dance…

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