Zawazawa and Sawasawa

This is first piece I have written as a "resident artist" of Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo where my dear friend Kazuki Yamada is the music director. It is also my first co-commission from The Crossing in Philadelphia, USA

When Kazuki asked me to write this piece, I remember a conversation we had a few years back in Prague. I was visiting with my family to hear Kazuki give the Czech première of my orchestral work "Rare Gravity" with the Czech Philharmonic. Kazuki was looking at my then 3 year old daughter when we all had lunch together before the concert. "Dai, you have to teach Japanese to your daughter. More importantly, you have to teach her onomatopoeia because that's the most unique thing in the Japanese language". I remember this conversation, and when I was writing for this choir piece years later, I decided to write music using Japanese onomatopoeia.

Japanese Onomatopoeia is serious. There are Haiku and other poems written only using Onomatopoeia. Apparently at the doctor's in Japan, a Japanese GP can diagnose many patients quickly, because patients can describe their pain with Onomatopoeia, which are a precise, and unique linguistic form.

So I picked several Japanese onomatopoeia, and started composing. As usual with my vocal works, the English text is written by Harry Ross, my collaborator of twenty years. We always work together, we compose and write text simultaneously, in the same room. However, this was the first time we tried combining Japanese onomatopoeia with English texts to create a narrative. Obviously, I needed to explain to him what "Zawazawa" (the first onomatopoeia I chose) meant. This was hard. To me zawazawa means….well, things go zawazawa! "Can't you feel it? no?".
It was odd that this sort of sense of feeling doesn't translate well into English. (I read somewhere that onomatopoeia are the hardest thing to learn in the Japanese language, as it is hard to understand nuance of each onomatopoeia.)

So here I am in the studio explaining to Harry that zawazawa means noisy; murmuring, sawasawa means rustling etc. (I attached below the "Zawazawa" - dictionary, so you will be perfect onomatopoeia-users by the end of this concert).

Zawazawa is 15min. long, and straight after the World Premiere of this piece, Graham Mckenzie - director of /hcmf sent me a message on Twitter saying that he wants to hear it (which was nice, since people do actually read my tweets). I sent a link of the recording. 15min. later, he replied "I want to commission a sequel, can you do it?". So this became Zawazawa Part 1 and Harry and I are currently working on Part 2, which has marimba in it (also this one is co-commissioned by Philharmonic Chorus of Tokyo + BBC). The narrative of Zawazawa (Part 1 and 2), in which the text is inspired by my music (according to Harry) and my choice of onomatopoeia is best left to Harry, who writes:

So, Dai's memory of how he explained the onomatopoeia zawazawa is ever so slightly different to our actual conversation. Yes, things go zawazawa, that was his first attempt at an explanation. Then he started talking about the wind rustling in trees. I still looked a little blank obviously, since he further clarified:

You know on Hilly Fields (a park in south London we both know) when it's a Sunday afternoon, and it's windy, and the trees rustle, and things don't feel quite right? That's also zawazawa. For some reason I started thinking about
Die Wetterfahne by Müller (no 2 in Schubert's Winterreise) and based my text on my own thoughts about the poem in the cycle.

Dai adds:

Whilst writing Zawazawa, we tried a new technique.
Half of the choir is crescendo while the other half is diminuendo. When one part of choir sings "east" and other will sing "feel". because of the crescendo and diminuendo together, we should hear the word "feast" (feel+east) and one part sings "eyes" and the other sings "why" and we should hear "wise". I wanted to do something like this that the word we had emerges out of two words and actual words we hear actually none of the singers have sung.


"Zawazawa"-Onomatopoeia dictionary:
zawazawa = noisy; murmuring sawasawa = rustling
sutto = quickly, all of sudden satto = suddenly
sotto = softly; gently
kosokoso = sneakily; secretly
kasakasa = rustle; dry
potsupotsu = a trifle, a bit
tekuteku = trudgingly; going long way at steady pace tobotobo = weakly, totteringly
sekaseka = fidget, restlessness, fidgetiness mesomeso = sobbingly, tearfully
tokotoko = briskly with small steps; trotting bochibochi = bit by bit, step by step, gradually kachikachi = stubborn, unregenerate, obstinate hokuhoku = steaming-hot
bachibachi = spark
soyosoyo = breeze (sound representing a soft wind) gasagasa = harshness, roughness, rustle
barabara = scattered, disperse, loose
pitapita = tightly, pasty, pastelike

"Sawasawa"-Onomatopoeia dictionary:
sawasawa = rustling
korokoro = (small) rolling, tumbling
hyu = Swift movement for something cutting the air
su = cool sensation from passing air
sa = rustling wind
sarasara = smooth, light, dry, flowing water


この作品は、僕が東京混声合唱団のレジデントアーティストに就任して初めての委嘱作品。そして、ほとんどの僕の声楽作品がそうであるよう に、詩人ハリー ロスとのコラボレーション作品だ。恐らく、今の所、僕の合唱作品の中で一番大きくて複雑な作品だと思う。

詩人と、どのようにコラボレーションをするかというと、だいたい僕の家の一室で何時間も一緒にいて、作曲と詩を同時進行で作っていく。家の5歳の娘は別の部屋で「あのおじ さんまだ帰らないの?」と言うし、ハリーのティーネージャーの娘は家までお父さんを迎えに来たりして、一緒に夕食を食べたりもした。

声楽作品は、詩があってそれに作曲家が音をつけていく、という作曲の仕方が一般的。僕はそれが昔から嫌だった。詩にインスパイアされて作曲する気持ちは分かるけど、僕は詩 の字数や言葉のアクセント(特に英語の場合は一つアクセントがずれるだけで言葉が分からなくなる)に作曲を制限されたくないし、むしろ、詩人 の方が僕の音楽にインスパイアされて僕の音楽に合う詩を書いてよ、とも思う。

詩については、僕がハリーに頼んだアイデアも盛り込まれている。山田和樹くんと家族ぐるみでプラハで会ったときに、当時4歳になる娘に「大 ちゃん、擬声語を教えなきゃだめだよ、日本語特有なんだから」と言われたのを思い出し、日本語のオノマトペ(擬声語)と英語の詩を混ぜて進め よう!と決めた。他にも、合唱団の半数が「Why」と、もう半数は「eyes」と同時に歌い、「wise」という響きを生み出したり、そう いった仕掛けが沢山この作品には散りばめてある。英語の詩を扱った作品の中では、僕らにとっては初めて試みるアイデア。



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