Great Fool: Six Poems of Ryōkan for Tenor and Orchestra
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Great Fool: Six Poems of Ryōkan for tenor and orchestra (2017) is a piece of music written for tenor voice and orchestra in six interconnected songs lasting approximately thirteen minutes. Each song is an English adaptation of a different poem by the hermit Zen monk Ryōkan Taigu (Japanese, 1758-1831). The music retains the brevity of the poetry as it explores the ideas of impermanence—the nature of any conditioned state to end—and a notion of an emptiness inherent in all things. As any state is only knowable in contrast to another opposing state (fast is not slow, hot is not cold, etc), all states are, in and of themselves, empty of a self-nature. These themes are found throughout the piece in different scales from the micro to the macro. For example, in the continuous change of a single string instrument’s technique first creating pitch, then unstable noise-spectrum, then pitch again. As we zoom out there is a version of the same motion in which the entire section of instruments performs a state-change so it is the massed sound itself that changes over the course of five seconds, or thirty seconds, or a minute. And finally in the trajectory of the piece as a whole from a state of relative complexity to a state of relative simplicity, with all points in between.
Table of Contents
Abstract -- Acknowledgements -- Instrumentation and list of songs -- Notation -- Text -- Great Fool -- Vita