Spring Ice

For soprano and violin with optional stereo fixed audio media
Vocal Chamber
Texts by Princess Shikishi, Saigyō Hōshi, Fujiwara no Shunzei and A.R. Ammons
March, 31st 2010
The University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
Sarah Kirsch, soprano and Oleg Pokhanovsky, violin
  • Program Notes

    Spring Ice links together a disparate group of nature poems to create a narrative and parable of seasonal change. A woman neither young nor old stands at water’s edge watching the signs of the coming winter. The flowing sound of a stream ebbs and fades, replaced be the chill sound of the wind. Time itself seems buried in the snow. Yet at last the winter wanes. The first barely audible dripping sounds of melting ice hint at seasonal change, grow to a trickle, then a rush, and at last a cascading torrent as the river ice explodes in the tumultuous awakening of spring. These settings for soprano and violin are almost miniatures, in keeping with the epigrammatic texts. The first eight poems are by the 12th Century Japanese poets Princess Shikishi, Saigyō Hōshi, and Fujiwara no Shunzei, in exquisitely crafted translations by Hiroaki Sato. The ninth and final climactic poem is by the intensly lyrical American writer A. R. Ammons (1926-2001). The work was commissioned for Brenda Brown’s 2010 landscape exhibition in Winnipeg celebrating the annual thaw of the ice on that most wintry of city’s three rivers, the Red, the Seine and the Assiniboine. For some 6000 years the confluences of Winnipeg’s rivers have served as meeting place for early aboriginal peoples, and later traders, settlers, pioneers and immigrants; and no doubt for as many years the yearly thaw has been a welcome harbinger of spring.

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