Only Apricots Fall In The Autumn Wind, Five Songs On Korean Zen Poems

Composer: 

Year Authored (or revised): 

2010

Instrumentation : 

Mezzo-Soprano, piano

Duration (min): 

11:00

Movements-Titles: 

1. On the Bank of a Stream
2. The Dream of a Butterfly
3. On Hearing a Pipe
4. A Fisherman’s Song
5. Mountain Life

Text Source/Author: 

Choeui Eusoon, “On the Bank of a Stream by Taedun Temple,” Hurbak Myungjo, “The Dream of a Butterfly,” Buhyu Sunsoo, “On Hearing a Pipe,” Jinkag Haesim, “A Fisherman’s Song,” and Chimi Sucho, “Mountain Life” from Because of the Rain: A Selection of Korean Zen Poems, translated by Won-Chung Kim and Christopher Merrill. Copyright © 2005 by Won-Chung Kim and Christopher Merrill. Used with the permission of White Pine Press, www.whitepine.org. All rights reserved worldwide.

First Performance: 

10/13/10, Faculty Recital, "Drunk on the Moon," Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Sarah Mantel, mezzo-soprano, Susan Wheatley, piano

Only Apricots Fall In The Autumn Wind, Five Songs On Korean Zen Poems, for voice and piano is based on poems that I selected from Because of the Rain, A Selection of Korean Zen Poems, compiled and translated into Korean by Daljin Kim, and then translated into English by Won-Chung Kim and Christopher Merrill. 

In the Translator’s Preface Christopher Merrill writes, “what these poems offer is a distillation of Zen doctrine and practice, glimpsed through a Korean lens… a form of compression akin to the aphorism… a style of thought congenial to the contemplative life, a music that depends upon stateliness and surprise…”

I wanted to express these qualities through the music and perhaps touch with sound the meaning, which, as Mr. Merrill later writes, is “like the waves of moon light that ripple across the sea and vanish into the scrollwork of the solitary monk.” The titles of the songs are 1) On the Bank of a Stream; 2) The Dream of a Butterfly; 3) On Hearing a Pipe; 4) A Fisherman’s Song; and 5) Mountain Life

On the Bank of a Stream by Taedun Temple

Choeui Eusoon (1786-1866)

After picking herbs, I rest on the bank of a stream

whose water is calm and clear.

After rain, the wisterias are clean,

the ancient rocks beautiful in the clouds.

The new green leaves are lovely,

and the falling flowers are still charming.

Green rocks equal embroidered folding screens,

blue moss replaces a silk cushion.

I wonder what else is needed for a life.

Sitting with my chin in my hand, I forget to return.

It’s lonely, the sun sets above the mountain,

and evening smoke rises at the edge of the forest.

 

The Dream of a Butterfly

Hurbak Myungjo (1593-1661)

When butterflies dance around the house in the East,

spring has already left the house in the West.

Butterflies arrive when the trees blossom,

and leave when fallen petals cover the yard.

The falling petals and departing butterflies are desolate

as me, with no place to go after separation.

A spring wind would bring back the flowers and butterflies

but my face in the mirror will not grow young again. 

 

On Hearing a Pipe

Buhyu Sunsoo (1543-1615)

A cold wind hastens the deep night.

From nowhere a sad pipe

adds to the wayfarer’s loneliness.

Homesickness grows heavy.

Deep sorrow in the mountains

and longing opening on the moonlit snow.

Lonely, I sit immersed in sadness;

only apricots fall in the autumn wind.


A Fisherman’s Song

 Jinkag Haesim (1178-1234)

A small boat, a fishing rod,

a straw raincoat, a pipe–these are what I have.

I drop my line, which has no hook–

how can I catch anything?

Innocent fish brush against each other.

 

The mist-covered mountains above the sea turn blue,

and from the frosted oranges comes a strong fragrance.

Drunk on the moon, filled with clouds,

I’m satisfied; never did I dream

of idle glory and shame.

 

Far above worldly ties and laws,

I spend morning and evening easily, calmly.

I’m all alone, at liberty within these four walls.

Following my own heart,

I travel freely from north to south, east to west.

 

The sky has emptied itself and is clear and calm,

its blue rippling through the fog.

Water and sky are mixed to the same hue.

I look at the boundless line

and find the autumn moon, the white flower of the reed.

Mountain Life 

Pyungyang Ungee (1581-1644)

Since coming to Tongsung Hermitage,

Every day brings delicious things.

I plow the soil to plant tea trees

and build a pavilion to look at the long mountains.

I read sutras by the bright window

and meditate on a koan, on the night chair.

How can busy people know the pleasure

of leisure outside the dusty world?

Choeui Eusoon, “On the Bank of a Stream by Taedun Temple,” Hurbak Myungjo, “The Dream of a Butterfly,” Buhyu Sunsoo, “On Hearing a Pipe,” Jinkag Haesim, “A Fisherman’s Song,” and Chimi Sucho, “Mountain Life” from Because of the Rain: A Selection of Korean Zen Poems, translated by Won-Chung Kim and Christopher Merrill.  Copyright © 2005 by Won-Chung Kim and Christopher Merrill.  Used with the permission of White Pine Press, www.whitepine.org.  All rights reserved worldwide.           

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