Here, for the first time in a long time, is something I wrote — but it’s not the music!
A couple of weeks ago, I recorded some of my friend Todd Harper’s songs with Kim Sueoka, a marvelous local soprano who sings with (among others) the Rose Ensemble and a first-rate voice/guitar duo called Voce y Cuerdas. She’s great, Todd’s great, and by golly, we had a wonderful time making the recordings!
Todd mostly writes voice / piano duets — and that’s mostly what we recorded — but he also did a lovely a cappella setting of one of my poems, and that’s what I’m publishing first. The poem is short, and so is the song.
The poem is a haiku. Syllable-counters in the audience may object that the lines do not follow the 5-7-5 pattern haiku are supposed to follow, but the syllable count rule isn’t important in modern English haiku, and many poets ignore it altogether. It only really makes sense in Japanese — English syllables are a very different ilk from their Japanese cousins. Moreover, the syllable count isn’t really the heart of the form.
What is the heart, then, you ask? A haiku is a direct experience, a single moment of perception caught before the mind has fully digested perception into narrative and meaning. It is typically tied to nature, often tied to a season*, but these are both optional in modern haiku. Perhaps most important feature is that the haiku has two parts: first a direct perception, then some second perception or mental twist that deepens the first part or casts it in a new light.
The separation between the two halves is a significant moment. In this song, Todd renders it ("halo") with the highest note, and the snaking, tonally shifting, rising melody of the first part (the autumn night, the moon) becomes sweet, diatonic, and falling (the illusion of the halo). Nicely done, Todd. And nicely done, Kim.
More songs to come!
* OK, I know it’s not autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere. You caught me.