(click on song titles below to listen)
Waking the Sparrows, written in 2013 for the Duo Sureno, is virtuosic, lyrical, and dramatic in its exploration of the timbral possibilities of the two instruments.
I love haiku for its immediate and intense natural imagery, its simplicity, and the way every syllable counts. Most if not all poems refer to a season and express a sense of time as well as place.
I used a number of haiku in The Skylark Sings (1995) in which seasonal references made for a narrative that flowed from birth to death. Selection of the poems for this work was much less intentional although more optimistic. They include only one fall reference and the only winter reference is the sparrows themselves. Images of spring including the final, Spring Rain are much more numerous.
In another break from The Sylark Sings in which the texts consist entirely of English translations, I often chose the original Japanese this time. The Ancient Pond and Spring Rain use exclusively Japanese words while the others start in Japanese then mix in some English.
Although there is no attempt to imitate bird calls in the vocal lines, the vocalist plays a number of small percussion instruments instead. In Sparrows and A Nightingale, the Japanese word Uguisu may seem like a bird call, but the aggressive guitar rhythms more directly imitate the nightingale.
A pheasant devouring a snake is the most dramatic image here set to music -- and both animals are spring references.
The only fall reference is a woodpecker in search of dead trees – but flying in its quest, notably, among cherry blossoms.
The final song, Spring Rain, refers to no animals at all, but to a spectacular and calm mountain scene.
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