Wavering World for orchestra

The Seattle Symphony administration office asked me if I wanted to write an orchestral work that was somehow related or responded to Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony. I must admit that I am not a big fan of many romantic symphonies.However, Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony is my all-time favourite work for Symphony Orchestra. It is perhaps the only symphonic recording that I have multiple albums of, performed by different orchestras and conductors.

When I started writing, my first thought was that many people would expect me to take some musical elements or phrases from Sibelius’ work and then develop them into my own music.

So I decided not to do that...

Since it is my favourite symphony, I decided to study a little about the background of Sibelius’ creative life. I bought several books and started reading them.

All these books had a similar theme - that Sibelius was inspired by Finnish Myths. Rather than continue reading, I decided to study Sibelius’ inspiration instead - Finnish Myths.

Whilst starting a book on Finnish Myths I read that these myths are quite like Japanese myths (and Greek myths and other Eurasian myths for that matter). I stopped reading – wondering to what extent that was true – there was also one particular concept that resonated with me - that the world was in existence before the Gods appeared.

Then I realized I didn’t know anything about Japanese mythology. That is not surprising, as when I grew up in Japan, I learned nothing about any traditional things in Japan. I didn’t hear Japanese instruments until I heard them in Germany. As for Japanese myths, I didn’t even know these existed either.

I decided to immerse myself in the study of Japanese mythology (somehow forgetting about the original stimulus – Sibelius’Seventh Symphony, and Finnish myths). I did however remember that by the end of this, I had to come up with an orchestra piece!

I learnt that three Gods appeared when heaven and earth split for the first time.
Some historians believe that these three Gods in Japanese mythology were genderless and bodiless.

This image of splitting heaven and earth was a great sonic image,
I did not hear in my head some bombastic, loud music from this image.
I heard something gentler, that focussed on the discovery of the new liminal world which would appear. This is how the work begins.

The basic structure of the worlds after the split is three vertical worlds. Apparently, the world where all the Gods live is the upper world, the world where the humans live is the middle ground - where lots of reeds grow, and then finally the dead live in the underworld.

There are many interesting stories in Japanese mythology that I now know. I wasn’t interested in creating programmatic work that would explain these stories. What did interest me was the Gods in the stories that showed their distinct personalities: emotional, aggressive, and dramatic.

I think what inspired me the most, and which made me compose music very differently from what I have composed before, was the middle world, the earth, where the humans live. I imagine this is the point of view of Gods who live upper world, looking down to see humans in middle world. That the middle world is the world between heaven and underworld, and that there are so many reeds growing is an extraordinary concept. I imagine this human world to be full of reeds swaying in the breeze. According to anthropologists, swaying reeds are a typical image in East Asian myths, likely due to the highly humid climate that makes water rushes and reeds quite common plants.

For me, the last third of Wavering World is the movement of these reeds, swaying, weaving, growing upwards, while the shape of humans, the shape of communities, maybe even the shape of islands, and the world are created. Lots of melodies surround the swaying woodwinds.
According to my reading, as most of the Gods “appeared” from nowhere so have these reeds just started growing. Nobody specific created anything; it was there before, the lives and the world formed from nowhere and then their interaction became possible to describe as worlds. This idea struck me as particularly interesting.

The world which existed before the Gods was like oil in water, moving like jellyfish (!). I liked this image of uncertainty. Not from the start, things had their proper shape only later. Maybe this part is the middle part of Wavering World - a wandering timpani solo surrounded by the world that floats around it.

An uncertain world is floating without knowing what kind of world it will be.

Dai Fujikura (edited by Harry Ross)












本作品《Wavering World》のラスト3分の1は、葦がゆらゆらと揺れ、織られ、上へ上へと伸びていく動き。それは、人間の形、コミュニティの形、おそらくは島の形、そして世界が創られていくのを僕は想像した。木管楽器のメロディがそよそよと揺らぐ。僕が読んだ限りでは、ほとんどの神々はどこからともなく現れ、この葦も成長を始めたばかりなのだ。誰か一人が創造したわけではない。生命と世界は、どこからともなく形作られ、相互に作用し、いつしか世界になる。このイメージが僕を虜にした。

神々が存在する前の世界というのは、たぶん水中の油のような、クラゲのような感じだったという文章も読んだ。僕は、この不確実なイメージが好き。物事が適切な形を持つようになるのは、後になってからみたいだ。《Wavering World》の中間部分は、そんなことを表している気がする。浮遊する世界に囲まれた、さまよえるティンパニのソロ。


藤倉 大 (日本語訳:滝田織江+藤倉大)