I am writing in this book, op. 88 : for soprano, mezzo-soprano, cello, double bass, percussion, harp and piano
by Andrew Schultz (2011)
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The work is made up of settings of five songs in English on texts from the tenth century The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon adapted by the composer. In developing the work I have been interested in some of the timeless ideas and contradictions in Shonagon's famous Japanese text. Self-conscious female allure contrasted with powerlessness and anger, the malevolent and liberating force of language, and the sensual and material world sitting in contrast to the artist's inner life. The Pillow Book consists of a diary of anecdotes, often quite quirky and poetic lists, and contemporary literary accounts written over a period of many years. The diary was written on paper given to Shonagon by the Empress in whose court she served. As a diarist, Shonagon seems to exemplify the artist's continual paradox - wanting artistic privacy but working in a form that is inherently destined to be public. So it is not surprising that many have been drawn to her work over the centuries and seen in it a mirror for the contemporary world as well as a unique insight into feudal Japan.
My work charts Shonagon's growth as a woman and a diarist from enthusiastic and naïve in the first song, through three songs that show her world and range of interests, to a final song steeped in the bitterness and dissolution of old age. The texts for the songs are in some cases overlapping combinations of different parts of the original.
Instrumentation: Soprano, mezzo-soprano, cello, double bass, percussion (1 player), piano, harp.
Duration: 18 min.
Contents note: 1. A gift of paper (2 min., 35 sec.) -- 2. Secret meetings (4 min., 30 sec.) -- 3. Language of women (3 min., 40 sec.) -- 4. I see the word ‘storm’ (3 min., 30 sec.) -- 5. It is getting dark 2 min., 50 sec.).
Commission note: Commissioned by Halcyon.. Written as part of a Bundanon Development Residency
- In the form/style of: Song Cycles
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