Dai Fujikura (1977)
But, I fly (2005)
for twelve voices
- General information
- Duration: 10 mn
- Publisher: Ricordi, Londres
- Commission: Ensemble Vox Humana
Libretto (details, author):
- Composition date: 2005
- A cappella vocal music [5 or more solo voices]
- ensemble of vocal soloists(3 soprano, 3 contralto, 3 tenor, 3 bass voice)
20 November 2005
Japon, Tokyo, Bunka-Kaikan
l'Ensemble Vox Humana.
In But, I Fly, Dai was looking to find an equal synthesis between musical gesture and the sounds of the words. This meant that he and Harry had to somehow cocoon the emerging work in a working process that is not simple to describe so that the words and the
music could metamorphose together.
For Dai, this way of threading elements together was infinitely more satisfactory than writing music for a pre-exisiting text. When he and Harry were at college together, Harry had asked him to write a piece based on a Carol Anne Duffy poem for his final recital. “I enjoyed singing it, the audience enjoyed listening to it, but you will not find it in Dai’s catalogue!” The reasons underlying this seeming hypersensitivity (especially for Dai, whose feet are firmly planted on the ground) to the working process are not just that the meter and stress of English poetry offer a composer fewer choices than, say, Japanese, which lends equal stress to each syllable.
There is a literal side to the Japanese tradition of musical composition, unformalized among Western practitioners, in which the composed sound-world is permeable to the larger world of sounds-and-sights in which we all exist. A gagaku performance (an ancient
Japanese courtly form of song and dance) I attended years ago, at Nogi shrine in Tokyo, instantly replays in the movie theatre of my mind as luminous moths circling between the audience and performers in the outdoor darkness. The tiny sounds of their wings was
echoed in the rustling trees and both were amplified by the richly wooded tones of the instruments, just as the shape of their flight was mirrored in the musicians’ exaggerated gestures and the fluttering of the dancers’ costumes. Beautiful and eerie, the moths integrate intended and allowed-for elements of the performance in a intentional paradox happenchance motif.
When Vox Humana, a Tokyo vocal ensemble, commissioned this piece from Dai, then, it did not occur to him to compose his music to a Japanese poem, in the way that a Western composer might well have done with the cultural resources at their disposal.
But, I fly instead emerged from cocooning prior musical decisions together with poetic inspiration. It is always difficult for onlookers to envisage such transformations, even with the information that modern metamorphoses have internet access and mobile phone reception and do not require fixed geographic co-ordinates (with Dai’s wings spanning the distance between Frankfurt and London, and Harry’s traversing Spoleto and Edinburgh).
There is one more element of the chrysalis. The tone of the piece, and of the poem, is patterned through and through with conversations over the phone with Dai, many of which took place while Harry and his two children took turns on the swings of a drizzly Scottish playground. Rosa, the older of the children, now aged three, also took turns with Harry on the phone to Dai, her Godfather. It was the children's experience on the swings - and their disjointed impressions of the experience - that most inspired this short choral piece. Funny how children seem to affect twentieth century vocal music … a German composer comes immediately to mind!
Our discussions were a chrysalis, children playing on the swings were the catalyst that turned them into But, I fly.