I love the work of the Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa.
He was born in Hiroshima, in 1955. His musical education took place mainly in Germany, though he also explored japanese traditional music. He has written some very interesting operas: Hanjo, Vision of Lear and Matsukaze.
A thoughtful exploration of Japanese sounds, the silence, incorporate Nature into his works, along a complete understanding of the Western classical and avant-garde music, shape Hosokawa's style.
I'm searching for a new way to understand the music and the spirit of Japan, one way that allows me to be faithful to myself and my origins. We japanese must think again Western world, ponder its influence on us, to incorporate into our self.
Transience is beatiful. A note breaks the silence, is alive, and then returns to the silence.
In 1991, Hosokawa completed the Hiroshima Requiem, in three movements. The first, "Night", recounted in instrumental music the eve of Little Boy's explosion, the night before the world changed forever. The second, "Death and Resurrection" merged the music with the voices of Hiroshima's children, extracted from this book:
in which boys and girls between five and fifteen years old in 1945, told us, in a naive and moving way, how they remembered living in Hiroshima just before and after August, 6th.
The third and last movement, "Dawn", was about Hirohisma coming back to life, from radioactive ashes.
To Hosokawa, the bomb was not a personal experience, but his mother and father told him about the terrible hours, and the death toll. However, after completing the Requiem, he was not satisfied, because he considered the new Hiroshima, a city of around one million inhabitants, impossible to tell from other similar Japanese cities, has now turn its back to Nature. An assignment from Baviera radio was all he needed to revisit the piece, and create in 2001, Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima.
The new work consists of five movements. The first one, "Prelude-Night", is very similar to the first version, just changing the orchestration, reinforcing brass and strings, and adding one celesta.
Hell is something that normally we only think about. But I've touched Hell, I've smelt Hell, and this I will take with me to Heaven.
I can't speak about it. It hurts me so... I can't speak with my mom about that day.
My mother and my little brother dissapeared. When I saw my father, he was not my father. It was just a jumble of bloody flesh in military rags. He died soon after.
I dream all nights about home, about my parents. I want to see them, I miss them so much.
I look at my face in a mirror, and only want to die.
I only ask the doctors each day, that they kill me.
From the book "Children of Hiroshima"
Little Boy was launched from Enola Gay, a B-29 bomber, at 8:15 AM, August, 6th, 1945.
It was three meters hight and weighted four tonnes
It was made with Uranium 235.
The bomb exploded 850 meters above the city of Hiroshima.
Air temperature reached one million degrees.
The energy liberated by the explosion was the equivalent of 15,000 tonnes of TNT.
Some 140,000 people die, the city was destroyed.
In the second movement, Death and Resurrection, we hear some experiences from Hiroshisma's children, in Japanese and English, a Requiem Mass, some radio speeches from Hitler and Tojo, sounds of bomb explosions,... To perform this movement we need three narrators, four soloist, mixed choir, children choir, orchestra and pre-recorded tape.
Winter Voice, for choir and orchestra is the third movement in the suite. Inspired in a poem by Paul Celan (not my translation):
Schneefall, dichter und dichter,
taubenfarben, wie gestern,
Schneefall, als schliefst du auch jetzt noch.
Weithin gelagertes Weiss.
die Schlittenspur des Verlornen.
stülp sich empor,
was den Augen so weh tut,
Hügel und Hügel,
heimgeholt in sein Heute,
ein ins Stumme entglittenes Ich:
hölzern, ein Pflock.
Dort: ein Gefühl,
vom Eiswind herübergeweht,
das sein tauben, sein schnee-
farbenes Fahnentuch festmacht.
Snowfall, denser and denser,
dove-coloured as yesterday,
snowfall, as if even now you were sleeping.
White, stacked into distance.
Above it, endless,
the sleigh track of the lost.
what so hurts the eyes,
hill upon hill,
fetched home into its today,
an I slipped away into dumbness:
wooden, a post.
There: a feeling,
blown across by the ice wind
attaching its dove- its snow-
coloured cloth as a flag.
it seems like we are immersed in a cold winter landscape. Choir lines reinforce the feeling of loneliness, interrupted by interludes that break the ocean of silence, and then die submerged in the water. We can even perceive the swell, a soft sound, gently beating.
This indifference, like a programmed mechanism, is what Hosokawa believes to be the heart of the industrial reconstruction of Japan, that has all but killed the spirit of the Japanese civilization.
Hosokawa-Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima-Winter Voice
The fourth movement, Signs of Spring, is a piece for alto, choir and orchestra. The text comes from a haiku by Matsuo Basho.
Blooming shepherd's purse
Under the hedge
A small flower, that we can find if we pay attention to our surroundings. This is, for Hosokawa, as present in the 21st century, as it was for Basho in the 17th.
And this is the meaning of Signs of Spring, in the words of Hosokawa, music for a new hope, a new balance between Man and Nature.
Hosokawa-Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima-Signs of Spring
Let's complete this brief introduction to Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima, with the fifth and last movement.
It's Temple Bells Voice, for choir and orchestra, again based on a haiku by Basho. In the Buddhist temples of Japan, the biggest bell in each temple, is tolled at New Year's Eve, a total of 108 times, for the elimination of the 108 desires that cause suffering to a human being.
Where is the Moon?
The Temple's bell
is sinking in the depths of the ocean
Hosokawa-Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima-Temple Bells Voice