Heavenward is my third offering in a cycle of loosely related pieces inspired by Japanese death poems, preceded by On the Verge and When You Contemplate the Waters. It was directly inspired by a haiku of Dohaku (died in 1675): Cargoless, bound heavenward, ship of the moon (English translation from Japanese Death Poems, ed. Yoel Hoffman, 1986). Unlike the previous two pieces in my “Death Haiku” cycle, I did not derive a musical narrative nor musical elements from Dohaku’s poem; neither did I wish to express the tragedy of the poet’s impending death, nor to comment on the gravity of death in general. Instead, I aimed to express a more personal reaction to the words. The piece depicts a gradual emotional ascent, beginning on a slow and dignified note and interspersed with brief moments of fleeting activity, harmonic instability and incremental tempo changes; eventually, it ends in a far different place. All the while, a three-note motive dominates the piece, appearing relatively unchanged throughout the piece.
Heavenward was composed for Ensemble Gô and completed in Singapore in early 2014.
2 violins, viola, cello, marimba
2 May 2014, Conservatory Concert Hall, Singapore
Monique Lapins and San Win Htike, violins; Victor Williams, viola; Dylan Lee, cello; Naoto Segawa, marimba