I had the great privilege of performing recently on the Cicada Consort Marathon Benefit Concert at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The purpose was to raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation to support research into Parkinson's Disease and other neurological disorders. The concert featured over 40 performers and composers and I performed two solo sets as well as "Vox Balaenae" by George Crumb.
For this blog entry for Spring 2016, I'm including video of the performances along with the excerpts from literature that I shared at the performance as a way to contextualize and further elucidate the pieces.
Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Though not specifically about a bird on a pond, I find this passage from Murakami’s novel pairs well with the narrative quality of Fujiie’s pieces and her sonic evocations of nature.
Excerpt: "The boy heard the hard-edged sound in the middle of the night. He came awake, reached out for the floor lamp, and, once it was on, sat up and looked around the room. The time on the wall clock was just before two. The boy could not imagine what might be happening in the world at a time like this.
"Then the sound came again—from outside the window, he was sure. It sounded like someone winding a huge spring. Who could be winding a spring in the middle of the night? No, wait: it was like someone winding a spring, but it was not really a spring. It was the cry of a bird. The boy carried a chair over to the window and climbed up onto it. He pulled the curtains back and opened the window a crack. In the middle of the sky hung a large white moon, the full moon of late autumn, filling the yard below with its light. The trees out there looked very different to the boy at night than they did in the daylight. They had none of their usual friendliness. The evergreen oak looked almost annoyed as it trembled in the occasional puff of wind with an unpleasant creaking sound. The stones in the garden looked whiter and smoother than they ordinarily did, staring up at the sky impassively like the faces of dead people.
"The cry of the bird seemed to be coming from the pine tree. The boy leaned out the window and looked up, but from this low angle, the large, heavy branches of the pine hid the bird. He wanted to see what it looked like. He wanted to memorize its color and shape so that tomorrow he could find it in his illustrated encyclopedia. His intense desire to know had brought him fully awake now. Finding birds and fish and other animals in his encyclopedia was his greatest joy. Its big, thick volumes lined one shelf of his room. He had yet to enter elementary school, but he already knew how to read.
"The bird fell silent after winding the spring several times in a row. The boy wondered whether anyone else had heard the cry. Had his father and mother heard it? His grandmother? If not, he could tell them all about it in the morning: a bird that sounded just like the winding of a spring was sitting in the pine tree last night at two o’clock. If only he could catch a glimpse of it! Then he could tell everybody its name.
"But the bird never raised its cry again. It fell silent as a stone, up there in the branches of the pine bathed in moonlight. Soon a chill wind blew into the room, as if giving him some kind of warning. The boy shuddered and closed the window. This was a different kind of bird, he knew, not some sparrow or pigeon, which showed itself to people without hesitation. He had read in his encyclopedia that most nocturnal birds were cunning and cautious. The bird probably knew that he was on the lookout for it. It would never come out as long as he waited for it to appear. The boy wondered if he should go to the bathroom. That would mean walking down the long, dark corridor. No, he would just go back to bed. It was not so bad that he couldn’t wait until morning.
The boy turned the light out and closed his eyes, but thoughts of the bird in the pine tree kept him awake. The bright moonlight spilled in from beneath the curtains as if in invitation. When the wind-up bird cried one more time, the boy leaped out of bed. This time he did not turn on the light, but slipping a cardigan over his pajamas, he climbed onto the chair by the window. Parting the curtains just the tiniest bit, he peered up into the pine tree. This way, the bird would not notice that he was there."
Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
Phaselis was an ancient Greek and Roman city in Lycia (now in present-day Turkey) and an important trade port on the coast of the Mediterranean. Uçarsu’s piece is one of four that were inspired by his visits to ancient sites in Turkey in the summer of 1996. The ancient ruins include several ceremonial structures erected in celebration of Emperor Hadrian’s visit in 131 A.D. For this reason I chose to excerpt a favorite novel that is not as widely read as it should be in my view.
Excerpt: "The route of return crossed the Archipelago; for the last time in my life, doubtless, I was watching the dolphins leap in that blue sea; with no thought henceforth of seeking for omens I followed the long straight flight of the migrating birds, which sometimes alighted in friendly fashion to rest on the deck on the ship; I drank in the odor of salt and sun on the human skin, the perfume of lentisk and terebinth from the isles where each voyager longs to dwell, but knows in advance that he will no pause. Diotimus read me the poets of his country; he has had that perfect instruction in letters which is often given to young slaves endowed with bodily graces in order to increase further their value; as night fell I would lie in the stern, protected by the purple canopy, listening till darkness came to efface both those lines which describe the tragic incertitude of our life, and those which speak of doves and kisses and garlands of roses. The sea was exhaling it moist, warm breath; the stars mounted one by one to their stations; the ship inclining before the wind made straight for the Occident, where showed the last shreds of red; phosphorescence glittered in the wake which stretched out behind us, soon covered over by the black masses of the waves. I said to myself that only two things of importance awaited me in Rome: one was the choice of my successor, of interest to the whole empire; the other was my death, of concern to me alone. …
"… I have no children, nor is that a regret. To be sure, in time of weakness and fatigue, when one lacks the courage of one’s convictions, I have sometimes reproached myself for not having taken the precaution to engender a son, to follow me. But such a vain regret rests upon two hypotheses, equally doubtful: first, that a son necessarily continues us, and second, that the strange mixture of good and evil, that mass of minute and odd particularities which make up a person, deserves continuation. I have put my virtues to use as well as I could, and have profited from my vices likewise, but I have no special concern to bequeath myself to anyone. It is not by blood, anyhow, that man’s true continuity is established: Alexander’s direct heir is Caesar, and not the frail infant born of a Persian princess in an Asiatic citadel; Epaminondas, dying without issue, was right to boast that he had Victories for daughters. Most men who figure in history have but mediocre offspring, or worse; they seem to exhaust within themselves the resources of a race. A father’s affection is almost always in conflict with the interests of a ruler. Were it otherwise, then an emperor’s son would still have to suffer the drawback of a princely education, the worst possible school for a future prince. Happily, in so far as our State has been able to formulate a rule for imperial succession, that rule has been adoption: I see there the wisdom of Rome. I know the dancers of choice, and its possibly errors; I am well aware, too, that blindness is not reserved to paternal affections alone; but any decision in which intelligence presides, or whether it at least plays a part, will always seem to me infinitely superior to the vague wishes of chance and unthinking nature. The power to the worthiest! It is good and fitting that a man who has proved his competence in handling the affairs of the world should choose his replacement, and that a decision of such grave consequence should be both his last privilege and his last service rendered to the State. But this important choice seemed to me more difficult than ever to make."
Bozicevic takes the title of his piece from this haiku by Basho:
summer in the world
floating on the lake
Follow the Cicada Consort YouTube page for complete video of the ten-hour concert!
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