View from the Bottom of a Stream

Satuma biwa and percussion (kotsuzumi, orugoru, bosasara) (2016)

duration: 14:00

premiere: November 16, 2016
Nihonbashi Kokkaido, Tokyo
Momoka Enomoto, biwa and Shinpei Tomita, percussion

program note

View from the Bottom of a Stream, for Satsuma biwa and percussion, was commissioned by Momoka Enomoto and premiered on November 16, 2016 at Nihonbashi Kokkaido in Tokyo. It was written in winter of 2015-2016 in Red Hook, New York, in a small studio overlooking a stream. As I listened to the stream rush by, I could imagine the world of Miyazawa Kenji’s story. I used loud and sometimes harsh music to form a contrasting frame around the underwater world of the crab children. Quiet, whispery sounds represent the shifting sand and the crab children’s sideways movement, and the orugoru (bell) represents an uguisu (songbird) heard from underwater. I was guided by the particular characteristics of Satsuma biwa, and inspired by its history in narrative storytelling.

Text selected by Momoka Enomoto from Yamanashi, by Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933)
Translated by Laurie Sogawa.

Two crab children were talking to each other at the bottom of the pale blue water.
Above them and all around them seems to be bluish, dark steel.
Granular, dark bubbles go flowing across the smooth ceiling.
Granular, dark bubbles go flowing by.
The crab children blew bubbles, strings of five or six, po, po, po…
The bubbles, swaying and gleaming like mercury, went climbing diagonally upwards.
Along with the (all the) bubbles (flowing by) many white birch petals came gliding across the ceiling.
The net-like patterns of light swayed, stretching and shrinking, the shadows of the petals drifted silently across the sand.