Komachi at Sekidera is based on the Japanese Noh play "Sekidera Komachi" by Kanze Motokiyo Zeame (1363-1443).
The protagonist of the play, Ono no Komachi, was a woman of great literary gifts and beauty who lived at the Heian court in ninth-century Japan. She became a legend after her death, and many apocryphal stories surround the few known biographical facts concerning her life. In the present piece Komachi has lived into old age, beyond her beauty and her literary fame, and has been forgotten. Confronted with age and mortality, she alternates between crying out for the days that are gone, and quieter sections in which she contemplates the bittersweet delight of still being alive.
The structure of the piece was influenced by the dramatic monologues of Monteverdi’s operas.
The modal character of the melody, which often returns to the unstable interval of the tritone, mirrors Komachi’s existential state, as does the alto flute, which shadows her feelings with sounds reminiscent of the shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute. The koto reflects Komachi's passionate nature.