Performance of Three Poems by Tanikawa Shuntarō (2002) by Julia Fox and Keith Weber
WHERE: St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 906 George Bush Drive, College Station TX 77843
WHEN: February 25, 2016 @ 7pm
In 1997 I discovered the poetry of Tanikawa Shuntarō, arguably the most widely read and highly regarded of living Japanese poets. Many of his poems are written in hiragana rather than in Chinese characters and intended for children. Hence, as a student of Japanese it is relatively easy for me to read and understand his poetry. Together, the three poems chosen for this song cycle represent three core aspects of the human experience; love, play, and nature.
The first song in the cycle, Kiss, is an evocative, sensuous musical setting of the emotion of love. It is set in a profoundly expressive, hyper-chromatic harmonic language to express passion and ecstasy. The second song in this cycle, Koro, koro, is the shortest and most playful of the three. Moto perpetuo sixteenth notes in the right hand of piano are offset by a bouncy rhythm in the left hand. The piano accompaniment spins, rocks, and sways, reflecting the movement in the poetry. As the poem becomes more introspective the piano accompaniment becomes less dense and more expressive. Towards the end of the movement a Japanese pentatonic scale is used to reflect the national identity of the poet and reinforce the Japanese language. The third song in the cycle, Haru (‘spring’) is a deeply introspective setting of a protagonist being so inspired by nature that he/she feels connected to a higher spiritual power. The forward movement and sense of looking beyond each element in one’s field of vision in the poem is musically reflected in ascending melodic vocal lines that come to a breathtakingly dramatic climax. In the final measures, a gentle falling gesture in the piano is intended to evoke the image of a cherry blossom gently swaying back and forth as it slowly drops to the ground.