IXHKXK - 9 haikais Xisto/Koellreutter

Pedro Amorim Filho – [email protected]
  Universidade Federal da Bahia

The piece was composed for the Hans Joachim Koellreutter’s centenary celebration concert and was inspired (as proposed by the organization of the concert), in his piece called “Oito Haikais de Pedro Xisto” (Eight Pedro Xisto’s haikus). So, the title of the piece could be translated as “9 (IX) haiku (HK) from Xisto (X) and Koellreutter (K)”. At first, it should be noticed that I decided to propose a 9 (instead of 8) haiku structure for the piece. We will see that, after all, there is nothing left but two haikus, and not by Xisto, but by Japanese traditional haiku poet Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827). This was a consequence of the developments of the very idea it was based upon, and the haikus were transformed in musical sections, not always with texts. The name of the piece, then, refers to these 9 musical haikus displayed on the pages of the score, not necessarily with texts.

The piece is written for a small ensemble of piano, flute, electric guitar, singer (a baritone in the score, but versions with other kinds of voice are acceptable as well) and one percussionist, playing temple blocks, two gongs of different pitches (represented by x-headed notes at the top lines of the score) and a tam-tam (also x-headed note at the bottom of the pentagram). It has an open form, consisting of five sections named after the position each one should take in the course of the performance. Two of these sections are named “INÍCIO ou FIM” (which means, in Portuguese, “Beginning or End”) and that means each one of these must be chosen to be (one) the starting point and (the other) the finishing section of the piece. Two other sections are named “TRANSIÇÃO” (Transition) and must come after the INÍCIO (beginning) and before the FIM (end). Finally, the biggest section has three pages (the other sections are limited to one page each) and is called MEIO (middle) for obvious reasons.

The performers should decide the order of the pages, thus organizing the piece according to the names of each part. So, one INÍCIO ou FIM (“beginning or end”) must open the piece, followed by one TRANSIÇÃO (“transition”), and then the MEIO (“middle”). After that, comes the other TRANSIÇÃO and, closing the piece, the other INÍCIO ou FIM. That means the piece is organized around the MEIO, and the place of the other parts is only relatively determined. The organizing of the sections may be determined either by conscious choice (deciding, for example, which INÍCIO ou FIM is more suited to start or end the piece) or simply putting the pages randomly in order, only respecting the relative positions pre-determined. So, the overall form of the piece, yet being open, can be described as:

INÍCIO or FIM (a) - TRANSIÇÃO (b) - MEIO (c) - TRANSIÇÃO (d) - INÍCIO or FIM (e).

Notice that the (a), (b), (c) etc. references are merely didactic here, to differentiate the homonymous sections, but there is no numbering or ordering explicit in the score pages.  A description of each section is shown below: first the INíCIO ou FIM sections, then the TRANSIÇÃO sections, and finally the MEIO.

One of the INíCIO ou FIM sections starts by the singer trying to sing a low E note in tune (see “tentando afinar o mi” at the score, which means: “trying to tune in the ‘e’ note”). The musicians play with the E note in different octaves and it culminates in a fragment of the original Japanese text of one of Issa’s haikus (hana nusubito wo: “the flower thief”). Soon after, the same haiku appears spoken with relative pitches, in its Portuguese translation: “lua da montanha/ gentilmente ilumina/ o ladrão de flor” (“mountain moon/ gently lights/ the flower thief”), always keeping the emphasis on the E pitches. The other INíCIO ou FIM section is purely instrumental, centered around a very simple and minimalistic spectral/melodic play over note A.

On both TRANSIÇÃO sections the voice sings only vocal (i.e.: not consonantal) phonemes. The instruments create a slightly unstable atmosphere over the vocals. In one of the sections, for example, the guitar starts detuning the sixth string (“folgando a corda” instruction at score), bending a high pitch and retuning (“apertando a corda”) to close the “haiku”. On the other TRANSIÇÃO section, though there are no such unstable pitch tactics, the overall interval profile is a little more complex than on the INICIO ou FIM sections. In both TRANSIÇÃO sections the percussion plays only the gongs, cleaning the texture from the otherwise omnipresent block sounds.

The MEIO section is, as has been told, the biggest, consisting of three pages, each one displaying a musical haiku. These pages should be played in the order they appear, what can be seen by the title MEIO, in the first page, and by the numbers (2 and 3) over each staff on the following pages. The first page is kind of a flute solo over the reciting of another of Issa’s haiku in Portuguese translation: “a flor/ na beira da estrada/ o jegue comeu” (“the flower/ at the border of the road/ the donkey ate it”). Here I took the poetic license to substitute “horse” (who, in the original poem, ate the flower) by “jegue” (donkey) that is also a somewhat irreverent word in Brazilian Portuguese, and subtly referent to northeastern Brazilian culture. This haiku ends with a burst composed of piano clusters in the extremities of the tessiture, plus tam-tam splash and guitar “crying” on the treble region.

On the second MEIO page the singer denounces the form singing “o meio/ aqui é o meio” (“the middle/ here is the middle”). It’s a kind of “breaking the forth wall” suited to music. The flute still has a prominent melodic role in this section and percussion marks the division of the vocal phrases.

Finally, the third MEIO page is a three gesture movement (dubbing haiku traditional three lines structure) composed of an orchestral unison of guitar, piano and flute, followed by another unison of only percussion and voice, in which the singer is asked to imitate the percussion sounds (“imitando a percussão com onomatopéias”), and closing with the reverse version of the first guitar/piano/flute unison.

IXHKXK is quite an easy piece to play, the only challenges being some stage presence required from the singer and the proper organization of the sections that must be the same for all the players. This may seem a silly issue, but, for instance, a simple unnoticed page shift by the singer at the premiere concert made a big confusion among the other musicians who got lost in the form, but where rescued by the pianist who was attentive of the “map”.