The composer lived in Japan from the age of 5 to 8. Some of his earliest musical recollections are Japanese.
Besides relying on motives from traditional Japanese music, In This World quotes three Japanese compositions:
--Etanraku, "a pedigree workhorse of a melody", used again and again in l9th century "Imayo", sung poetry associated with the nobility
--Edo Lullaby, from Japan's later middle ages (17th cent. - 1868), the so-called Edo Period (Edo was the name for Tokyo before it became the capital of Japan)
--Midare, by Yatsuhashi Kangyo, composer of koto music, who lived from 1614 to 1685. The title means "rough, unorthodox."
The title is taken from two haiku by Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), a much-loved poet, sometimes described as a Whitman or Neruda in miniature:
In this world
we walk on the roof of hell
gazing at flowers.
Sing the music of heaven
in this world.