Haiku Requiems

.. Following the inclusion of a long haiku sequence, ‘Singing Carmina Burana‘, in our most recent book, Persimmon, some of you might be interested to learn that a few of your singing poet friends are now enrolled to perform Faure’s Requiem with the Kyoto Muse Choir this July. Deadline for enrolment is March 2.
.. Practising, I was reminded of another beautiful, currently popular Requiem: one by British composer, Karl Jenkins. Its first performance was in London in 2005, so it is 21st Century music, but 5 of its 13 movements are based on Japanese haiku-style death poems (辞世) by, respectively,
.. Gozan 吾山 (Koshigaya, 18th cent.) in movement 3: The snow of yesterday / that fell like cherry blossoms / is water once again 花と見し雪はきのふぞもとの水
.. Issho 一笑 (Kanazawa, 17th, disciple of Basho) in 6: From deep in my heart / how beautiful are / the snow clouds in the west 心から雪うつくしや西の雲
.. Hokusai 北斎 (Edo, 18-19th, ukiyo-e artist) in 8: Now as a spirit / I shall roam / the summer fields 人魂(ひとだま)で 行く気散じや 夏野原 
.. Chiyo-ni 千代尼 (Matto, Kaga, 18th, most famous haiku poetess) in 10: Having seen the moon / even I take leave of this life / with a blessing 月も見て我はこの世をかしく哉 
.. and Banzan 晩山 (Kyoto 17-18th) in 12: Farewell / I pass, as all things do, / like dew on the grass まめでゐよ身はならはしの草の露
and are sung in Japanese, the last two with traditional Latin Requiem words woven in! If your interest or time is limited, just listen to those 5 haiku-based movements from the complete work. Surely, it is a successful blending of West and East. There is a shakuhachi 尺八 and taiko 太鼓 in there, too. English translations are from Hoffmann’s book, Japanese Death Poems, which is where Jenkins probably found them, too.
.. There are one or two live performances of this haiku-replete Requiem available on YouTube, but nothing special. The studio version you can listen to here is well performed by a choir and orchestra in Kazakhstan! Best to copy and paste the link below into a parallel tab; then you can look at the haiku here and think of the poets while you listen …
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5 Responses to “Haiku Requiems”

  1. Ursula Maierl Says:

    Bravo on finding this ! I have clicked on to listen immediately with enthusiasm. KyotoMuse seems fond of Requiems – maybe they can be persuaded?

  2. Michael Dylan Welch Says:

    Your readers might also be interested in my review of the Jenkins requiem, published in Modern Haiku in 2007. See http://www.graceguts.com/reviews/requiem-by-karl-jenkins.

  3. Wonderful, beautiful. I listened and sank deeply into it. Thank you.

  4. […] Source: Haiku Requiems | Icebox […]

  5. Note that the composer desisted from including Basho’s own posited death verse, Falling ill on a journey / my dreams now wander round /
    a withered moor 旅に病で夢は枯野をかけ廻る, possibly as too pessimistic? He preferred the relative brightness of Hokusai’s summer fields. The last haiku Basho actually produced before he died in Osaka, Ah, Kiyotaki! / scattered into the swirling stream / green pine needles 清滝や波に散り込む青松葉, might have been a stronger candidate though, had Hoffmann included a record of it. In the haiku images chosen by Jenkins we find snow, water, clouds and dew – the metaphor of life as water pervades. A stark, yet somehow moving contrast is presented in movement 12, with the women singing (in Japanese) “I pass as dew on the grass” and the men echoing (in Latin) “O Lamb of God, grant them rest” !

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