On Tuesday 18 January at 6:30pm the Andromeda Ensemble (formally Hé Ensemble), a newly formed ensemble of RAM students premieres Robert Peate’s new work Japanese Death Poems – Book 1 – for Flute/Alto Flute, cello, Piano, Harp, Vibraphone/Percussion, Electric Guitar. The concert will be at Angela Burgess Recital Hall, Royal Academy of Music.
Penning a ‘death poem’ in one’s final moments’ is an ancient Japanese tradition, and when I came across Yoel Hoffman’s compilation Japanese Death Poems – written by Zen monks and Haiku poets on the verge of death, I was immediately drawn to them musically.
The six poems make up something of a song-cycle, but for an ensemble of six instruments, and where the poems are reflected more as musical ‘accompaniments’ than being set word-for-word. The six movements run without a break; the first and last being scored for the full ensemble, and the inner movements featuring four duets (enhanced by percussion). The fifth movement (for Alto flute, ‘cello and Tibetan bowl) is a version of a Honshirabe (meaning ‘one’s own song’) – a traditional, plaintive music played on the Shakuhachi.
Themes of death, nature and rejuvenation are (inevitably) conspicuous elements, as the movements move through a variety of moods, from meditative acceptance to more visionary or violent outpourings.
Japenese Death Poems – Book One, is dedicated to the Hé Ensmble for whom it was written, and as a modest memorial piece in memory of Oliver Knussen.Robert Peate
We at Composers Edition are looking forward to this premiere and to publishing Japanese Death Poems – Book 1 in due course.