On a Mountain Path (Basho)
Choral: women's chorus
On a Mountain Path was composed in the fall and winter of 2008-2009 for Voci Chamber Chorus. The inspiration for the piece came from the theme of the concert it was composed for: mountains and rivers with an East-meets-West subtheme. As I contemplated how I might realize this theme, I was immediately drawn to the idea of setting haiku. I have always been attracted to the simplicity and austerity of the form, and the wonderful invention it has inspired. I settled on five texts by Basho that all feature mountains. “Natsu kodachi” centers around a pun on the word for summer grove and short sword, describing the mountain in martial terms. “Sumiregusa” describes the charm of finding a violet on a mountain path. “Hibari yori” depicts a skylark suspended in the sky over the mountain. “Kiri shigure” reflects on the attractiveness of Mount Fuji being enhanced by its being obscured by a mist shower. “Tsuki no tomo” is the only poem that does not directly reference a mountain. It refers to a legend about Mount Obasute in which a man is persuaded by his wife to follow the old custom of abandoning his old aunt on the mountain. But the full moon rising above the mountain makes him feel so much remorse that the next morning he climbed the mountain to bring her back.