Clouds, Now and Then (2021)

For soprano, violin and piano (and stopwatch).

Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694) is a legendary Japanese poet who adored moon viewing. The so-called tsukimi is an ancient festival in honour of the autumn moon. This could be done at parties where dumplings (dango’s) were eaten and naturally also the moon was observed, preferably via a rippleless surface of a lake. The tsukimi is still a very popular tradition. Sometimes, the moon is not visible because of clouds or rain. Bashō wrote a poem (specifically, haiku) about it:

kumo wori wori           雲をりをり
hito wo yasumuru       人を休むる
tsukimi kana                月見哉

Which could be translated as:

clouds now and then
a moon viewing
giving me rest

The interpretation could be more profound than it initially seems, especially from Bashō’s point of view: Bashō, fascinated with moon viewing, is constantly with his head ‘in the clouds’. Due to clouds sometimes appearing before the moon, it is possible for him to return to himself. Otherwise, he could forget himself entirely.  

The piece Clouds, Now and Then is written for soprano, violin and piano and is inspired by the haiku above. The soprano recites the Japanese haiku in a melismatic way, accompanied by a sterile but colourful line played by the violin. It almost sounds like tangible moonlight. After each singing moment, the violin reacts in a virtuosic and calligraphical way. The piano connects to the poetic whole by growing several types of musical clouds. How will the moon viewing continue?

Enjoy playing Clouds, Now and Then! Purchase the score here!

Maurick Reuser, 19 October 2021

Autumn Colours (2021)

For clarinet, cello and piano (and stopwatch).

Autumn Colours is a trio for clarinet, cello and piano telling an interlaced story. On the one hand, this piece is inspired by the music and life of German composer and conductor Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) and on the other hand, this piece is inspired by the woodblock prints by Japanese painter Ogata Gekkou (1859-1920). Both artists are formal contemporaries who yet lived in completely different worlds. Now they finally meet in a single (musical) work of art. 

In the first half of 2021, I was involved in a mini festival organized by the Chimaera Trio: Meervoudig Mahler (‘’Multiple Mahler’’). To this festival, a project was connected in which a few composers got assigned to write a work related to Mahler. While this was in the back of my mind, on 13th July I visited the Sieboldhuis in Leiden, which is an incredible museum dedicated to Japan. It held an exhibition about the Meiji Art of Ogata Gekkou. His prints made such a big impression on me that I purchased the art catalogue and took it with me on my summer travels. In the catalogue, I often revisited the 1896 print Autumn Colours at Takinogawa. This particular triptych not only inspired me to create the blueprint for a musical image as now presented in the score before you, but especially inspired me to design everything in triptych-like structures. One could say there are up to three triptychs in this work.

The first one is Ogata’s literal triptych: Autumn Colours at Takinogawa. Woodblock printing is a technical story, but what especially interests me is that all prints are reproducible and can be subject to reissuing. The result is that more than one copy of Autumn Colours at Takinogawa exists and that each copy differs in colouring. That’s absolutely wonderful! Using independent instrumental parts with buffered timecodes, the musical structuring of Autumn Colours is similar to the woodblock printing process, seeing that in each performance the performer ‘’prints’’ a separate layer of music which complements with the other layers into a single audible image. The second triptych is about Mahler, as his life could be divided into three periods: early, middle and late. Autumn Colours incorporates a melody or motive from each period and distributes them over the three instruments. Using three musical instruments is in itself already a triptych reference. The careful listener/reader could possibly discover another ‘’secret’’ triptych in the piece.

Enjoy playing Autumn Colours! Purchase the music here!

Maurick Reuser, 2 September 2021

Ugetsu (2021)

For bass clarinet, double bass, accordion and percussion (and stopwatch).

Early April 2021 I got a phone call: ‘’Would you like to write for the contemporary music ensemble But What About, which consists of accordion, double bass, clarinet and percussion?’’ Thus I participated in the Gaudeamus Summer School.

In the course of the few months after, gradually an idea developed. Ugetsu finds its origins in a story about Buddhist monk-poet Saigyou, as written by D.T. Suzuki. Saigyou was on one of his travels and one day needed a place to stay for the night. He met an elderly couple who could, hesitantly, only offer him a leaking hut. It turned out that the couple was in a doubt whether to fix the roof or not. The old lady loved the moonlight coming inside, so the hut was left roofless, but the old gentleman enjoyed listening to the rain beating against the roof, which would only be possible after repair. Furthermore, it was already Autumn, which is the finest moon season but also offers enjoyable autumnal showers. Despite the dilemma, Saigyou was allowed to enter if he could elaborate on a few lines suggested by the couple. Hence the following poem came into existence:

Is the moonlight to leak?
Are the showers to patter?
Our thoughts are divided,
And this humble hut –
To be thatched, or not to be thatched?

Saigyou (Suzuki, 1959, p. 340)

While staying the night, Saigyou beheld the moonlight illuminating his surroundings, even shedding its light inside the hut. He also thought he heard the showers coming, but it was the autumn wind making the dead leaves beat against the house. ’It is a shower of falling leaves in the moonlight.’’  The following poem could express this magical experience:

When the dead leaves are falling thick,
As I sit quietly at night in my room,
Difficult it is to judge,
Whether it is showering,
Or whether it is not showering.

Minamoto no Yorizane (Suzuki, 1959, p. 341)

Enjoy playing Ugetsu!

Maurick Reuser, 6 August 2021