A Japanese Wood-Carving (2018)
Instrumentation: Choir (SA), violin, clarinet, marimba
Description: This was my first serious piece setting a text, and I tried to use techniques I knew from the limited knowledge I had. Thus, text-painting is prominent in this score, as is the careful breaking up of the text with instrumental sections. The use of all wooden instruments was a deliberate choice to accompany the text based on the poem's title. It was another piece to be inspired by nature and birdsong, especially writing it in late-spring. Pentatonic scales are occasionally used, but giving the piece a Japanese sound was not a requirement for me when writing it.
I would like to thank my colleagues Ariane Omerza and Sue Schwaegler with the Jenny Lind choir at Augustana College who recorded this piece for me on 14 October 2018 at my senior recital.
Text by Amy Lowell (1874-1926)
View the full text here. (Below, you will find the text used in the piece.)
High up above the open, welcoming door
It hangs, a piece of wood with colors dim.
Once, long ago, it was a waving tree
And knew the sun and shadow through the leaves
Of forest trees, in a thick eastern wood.
The winter snows had bent its branches down,
The spring had swelled its buds with coming flowers,
While autumn pelted it with chestnut burrs,
And strewed the leafy ground with acorn cups.
Dark midnight storms had roared and crashed among
its branches, breaking here and there a limb;
But every now and then broad sunlit days
Lovingly lingered, caught among the leaves.
Yes, it had known all this, and yet to us
It does not speak of mossy forest ways,
Of whispering pine trees or the shimmering birch;
But of quick winds, and the salt, stinging sea!
An artist once, with patient, careful knife,
Had fashioned it like to the untamed sea.
Here waves uprear themselves, their tops blown back
By the gay, sunny wind, which whips the blue
And breaks it into gleams and sparks of light.
Among the flashing waves are two white birds
Which swoop, and soar, and scream for very joy
At the wild sport. Now diving quickly in,
Questing some glistening fish. Now flying up,
Their dripping feathers shining in the sun,
While the wet drops like little glints of light,
Fall pattering backward to the parent sea.
Hanging above the high, wide open door,
It brings to us in quiet, firelight room,
The freedom of the earth's vast solitudes,
Where heaping, sunny waves tumble and roll,
And seabirds scream in wanton happiness.