for vocal quartetcountertenor, 2 tenors, bass (2011)
|Premiere||May 26, 2001; Paine Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; The Hilliard Ensemble|
Shiroi Ishi - text by Ken Ueno
SHIro i iSHI
Tsukiyo no umi ni SHIzumu
Sono toki hamon wa
Nagare boSHI no kage
Sinks into a moon-lit ocean
That moment, the ripples are
shadows trailing a shooting star.
The first syllable "SHI" of the word "shiro" (white) has multiple meanings:
1): Four - for the number of performers.
This syllable acts as a link between the worlds of pitch and noise/timbre, as well as word and sound. Structurally, each successive occurrence of this syllable opens a window of evocation to previous occurrences - the white stone passing into another existence synchronistically being related to another transient moment, that of a shooting star.
The relationship of the stone and the ripples (and the shooting star and its shadows) is akin to the relationship between consonants and vowels in the Japanese language. The whole language is build upon five basic vowels (a, i, u, e, o) which are arranged with different consonants in front of the vowels (ex.: ka, ki, ku, ke, ko, ga, gi, gu, ge, go, etc.). This means that the same five formants create meaning according to what noise elements (consonants) are affixed to the attack of the sound (every sound has three components: an attack, a middle, and a decay). There is a modular quality to Japanese language since the phonological aspects are so limited. In changing the rhythm of words and phrases, in stretching phrases, it is possible to derive or hear different meanings from one phrase. Even without understanding the Japanese, it is hoped that one can follow the statistical prevalence of certain consonants as a way to following the text (as opposed to following melodic phrases). It is some kind of common ground between Eastern incantation and modern electroacoustic sounds that I am seeking present as a discourse in setting my text.
- Ken Ueno