Tumbling From the Ninth Height of Heaven

vln/koto, vlc/koto, or shakuhachi/vlc/koto
(2007) 9′


Recording

Recording


included on Taking the Scarlet by Duo vioLINKotoPurchase
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Tumbling from the Ninth Height of Heaven for Violin and Koto

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Tumbling from the Ninth Height of Heaven for Cello and Koto

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Tumbling from the Ninth Height of Heaven for Shakuhachi, Cello and Koto

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Duo Yumeno: Hikaru Tamaki, cello; Yoko Reikano Kimura, koto

The piece takes its title from a poem by Li Bai (c. 700-762), a Chinese poet from the Tang dynasty. The poem, “Viewing the Waterfall at Mount Lu,” describes an enormous waterfall at Mount Lu in Jiangsi province:

Sunlight streaming on Incense Stone
kindles violet smoke; far off I watch the waterfall plunge to the long river,
flying waters descending straight three thousand feet,
till I think the Milky Way has tumbled from the ninth height of Heaven.
(trans. Burton Watson)

This poem inspired the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai to design a woodcut depicting Li Bai at the edge of a cliff gazing upon the immense falls while his two young attendants try to keep the inebriated poet from tumbling over the edge. Both the poem and Hokusai’s print were the focus as I wrote the piece. The piece is filled with descending lines and rippling, cascading textures. Though there is plenty of activity on the surface, the materials on which the piece is based are quite simple. I took this decorative minimal approach as an homage to Hokusai, whose works are often both ornate and simple at once.

The piece was originally written for Duo Vio-LINK-oto (Pia Liptak, violin; Ryuko Mizutani, koto), who gave the premiere performance in Honolulu in February 2007. The cello/koto version was arranged for Duo Yumeno (Yoko Reikano Kimura, koto; Hikaru Tamaki, cello) in 2014, and the trio version was adapted for Christopher Molina in 2019.

この作品は、唐代の詩人・李白による漢詩「廬山の瀑布を望む」と、それを題材とした葛飾北斎の浮世絵から着想を得て、作曲した。李白の詩は、江西省にある巨大な滝を除する:

日光に香炉峰が紫の靄を漂わせ、
はるか下の川の上に滝がかかる。
三千尺も直下にほとばしり、
九天より天の川が流れ落つよう。

全体的に落下し波打ち、流れていく旋律に溢れている。表層的には躍動感に満ちているが、音素材としては至ってシンプルであり、このミニマル的なアプローチは、華やかさとシンプルさを併せ持っていた北斎へのオマージュでもある。この作品は2007年に水谷隆子(箏)とピア・リプタック(ヴァイオリン)の為に作曲し、2014年にデュオ夢乃の木村伶香能(箏)と玉木光(チェロ)の為に改訂した。今回の尺八版は、2017年にクリス・モリナの依頼によって実現した。

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