I composed this work by researching the historical background of the "Nagara no ZaZa” garden. Turtle Totem was commissioned by the owner of the garden, who also hosted its world premiere.
"Nagara no ZaZa” is a very old garden. I would say it is a traditional, spiritual garden.
There is a pond in this garden with a small bridge.
It is believed that when one crosses the bridge, one enters the next world, the afterlife. When you cross back over the bridge, then you return to “this” world.
This ancient spiritual idea upon which the garden was built was fascinating to me. There are turtles in the garden. Not actual turtles, but stones which symbolize the turtle. Some are on top of each other. I read that the turtles travel between these worlds, with little turtles riding on top of them, like totems.
So in this piece, there are two musical worlds. Movements in the low register, often with fluttertongue, to higher, lyrical phrases.
One clarinetist travels between the two sound worlds, very much like the turtle in this garden. The imagery is of going back and forth between the two worlds.
Dai Fujikura (edited by Alison Phillips)