Four Haiku (2007)


For unaccompanied SATB Chorus


Commissioned by:
The Vancouver Chamber Choir (Vancouver, BC, Canada) / Jon Washburn, Artistic Director

Premiere and recording source:
The Vancouver Chamber Choir (Vancouver, BC, Canada) / Jon Washburn, Artistic Director
Ryerson United Church, Vancouver, BC, Canada
May 4, 2007

score excerpt

Taken from The essential haiku: versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa. Introduction and selection copyright ©1994 by Robert Hass. Unless otherwise noted, all translations copyright ©1994 by Robert Hass. Brown. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

I. Spring
The end of spring
in the cherry blossoms.
    - Yosa Buson, 1716-1874         

II. Summer
Clapping my hands –   
with the echoes the summer moon      
begins to dawn.           
    - Basho, 1644-1694

III. Fall
Early fall –
the sea and the rice fields
all one green.
    - Basho, 1644-1694

IV. Winter
The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
with children.   
    - Kobayashi Issa, 1763-1827

Program notes:

This work is an original setting of four haiku by three of the greatest Japanese haiku masters, Basho, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa.  I set all four haiku using the same few traditionally “Japanese” musical features:, which unifies the sound of the work as a whole.  All the melodic and harmonic material in each movement is built around a different traditional Japanese pentatonic (five-note) scale, which gets its distinctly Asian sound from the half-steps between some of the pitches.  Every movement also utilizes the characteristically Japanese musical devices of heterophony, where the same melodic line, with slight individual variations, is performed simultaneously by two or more performers; ornamentation, particularly with leaping grace note figurations; and of course, silence.

This work was commissioned by and is dedicated to Maestro Jon Washburn and the incredible Vancouver Chamber Choir of Vancouver, BC, Canada.