For woodwind soloist with choir, orchestra, and organ, this hour-long work explores 10 paintings from the fantastical world of Japanese-Brazilian artist Oscar Oiwa. 9 of the paintings are paired with poems from Tibet/China, Nepal, Vietnam, Japan, India/Bangladesh, and the USA, most of which are reflections on calamities (war, natural disaster, political upheaval, environmental destruction, etc.) experienced by the authors themselves. Premiered November 23-24, 2017, by the Slovenia Philharmonic and Choir, with Mate Bekavac, soloist, and Vladimir Kulenovic, conductor. Score and parts available for purchase, and images available for licensing from Oscar Oiwa.

LISTEN: Slovenia National TV & Radio Broadcast (start time: 1:34:45).

 

PART I - THE SEA

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1. ICEBERGS

The raven caws
from above;
Below him
the rooftops
are all white;
And the prayer flags
Sag sullenly.

First Snowfall
Gyalpo Tsering (Tibet)

 

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2. INVISIBLE SEA

I dive down into the depth of the ocean of forms,
hoping to gain the perfect pearl of the formless.

No more sailing from harbor to harbor with this my weather-beaten boat.
The days are long passed when my sport was to be tossed on waves.

And now I am eager to die into the deathless.

Into the audience hall by the fathomless abyss
where swells up the music of toneless strings
I shall take this harp of my life.

I shall tune it to the notes of forever,
and when it has sobbed out its last utterance,
lay down my silent harp at the feet of the silent.

The Deathless, the Silent
Rabindranath Tagore (India/Bangladesh)

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3. GHOSTS

The ghosts of American soldiers
wander the streets of Balad by night,
unsure of their way home, exhausted,
the desert wind blowing trash
down the narrow alleys as a voice
sounds from the minaret, a soulful call
reminding them how alone they are,
how lost. And the Iraqi dead,
they watch in silence from rooftops
as date palms line the shore in silhouette,
leaning toward Mecca when the dawn wind blows.


Ashbah
from Here, Bullet (c) 2005, Brian Turner (USA)
Text used by permission of Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org

 

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4. SWIRL

...And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst
of the waters” and into the dome God put

the poor, the addicts, the blind, and the oppressed.
God put the unsightly sick and the crying young

into the dome and the dry land did not appear.
And God allowed those who favored themselves

born in God’s image to take dominion over
the dome and everything that creeped within it

and made them to walk to and fro above it
in their jumbo planes and in their copy rooms

and in their conference halls. And then
God brooded over the dome and its multitudes

and God saw God’s own likeness in the shattered
tiles and the sweltering heat and the polluted rain.

God saw everything and chose to make it very good.
God held the dome up to the light

like an open locket and in every manner called
the others to look inside and those who saw

rested on that day and those who didn’t
went to and fro and walked up and down

the marsh until the loosened silt gave way
to a void, and darkness covered the faces with deep sleep.

Martha Serpas, New Orleans, September 2005
“Poem Found” from The Dirty Side of the Storm by Martha Serpas.
Copyright 2007 by Martha Serpas. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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5. ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD

My bed shakes
as I prepare to reclaim

fractured
fragments of my sleep

punctured
by shrill chorus

of Monsoon
cicadas and frogs

coming
from a sullied earth.

In the cracks
of debased glaciers shine

the beguiled stars
of our twisted galaxies,

icons of
our loss and lament.

“Twisted Galaxies”
from Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems
Yuyutsu Sharma (Nepal)
Used with permission of the author.

PART II - THE LAND

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6. EARTHSCAPE

Soon the sugarcane you are cutting
will be turned into sugar
Your sugar
will travel the world
coating many lives with sugar of course, along the way
but the world doesn’t need to know
the bitter courage
a ten year old boy must muster
while drowning in the ocean of endless miseries
in a displaced persons camp in Burma


-from Beyond the Sugarcane Fields, by Sai Sam Hkam (Kachin, Myanmar)
Used with permission of the author.

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7. THE LIGHT FROM THE FOREST

(no poem, instrumental only)

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8. ACCIDENT

I email a friend. “The sound of the word 'Fukushima’ has completely changed.” An empty bus with no one aboard rushes by, going back to the depot. Was that an aftershock? No. A flier pasted up at the bus stop is ripped off and tossed about by the wind. I chase it, but it quickly blows off into the distance. Fukushima, Fu-ku-shi-ma.

-from Pebbles of Poetry: Part 10 (April 1, 2011, 10:50pm), by Wago Ryoichi (Fukushima, Japan), published via Twitter. Translation by Jeffrey Angles. Used by permission of the author and translator.

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9. PEACE AND WAR (WAR)

I hold my face between my hands.
No, I am not crying.
I hold my face between my hands
to keep the loneliness warm--
two hands protecting,
two hands nourishing,
two hands preventing
my soul from leaving me
in anger.

For Warmth
Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnam)

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10. FLOWER GARDEN (HIROSHIMA)

From the sky in the form of snow
comes the great forgiveness.
Rain grown soft, the flakes descend
and rest; they nestle close, each one
arrived, welcomed and then at home.

If the sky lets go some day and I’m
requested for such volunteering
toward so clean a message, I’ll come.
The world goes on and while friends touch down
beside me, I too will come.

November, by William Stafford
from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. Copyright 1993, 2014
by Kim Stafford and the Estate of William Stafford. Used by permission of
The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of the Estate of William Stafford. All rights reserved worldwide.