“Imatges estacionals” with the nuances of ACOUHYB (On 4 haikus of Matsuo Bashō)

David Llorens and Guillaumes and Kimhïyo Nakako explain the composition process of the piece Imatges estacionals and shed light on its meanings.

"Imatges estacionals" premiered on February 23 of this year, at a concert by Musical Innovators with ACOUHYB. According to David, “The idea for the work arose from a previous proposal, also based on some haikus that Kimhïyo helped me understand. Since then, I wanted to write a play for Kimhïyo, about haiku and in his native language. Then I contacted Musical Innovators, who I had collaborated with on the ACOUHYB piano project, and they quickly embraced the project.”

This is how the idea of expanding the range of sounds of “Imatges estacionals” with ACOUHYB arose: “The next step was to test the fragments that I had already written with the Crazy 0/4 sound, since at school I have a wall piano in that tuning, and the result was that some fragments worked very well, but not the whole work. Even so, the new ACOUHYB has 7 different sounds, so I didn't give up and tried it on 0/1. With this tuning, the whole piece worked, so we decided to use the 0/1 sound as the main one instead of the secondary one for the first time.”

To add the ACOUHYB, they had to convince the pianist Núria S. Leiva, and the result was more than satisfactory: “not only did she like playing with the Acouhyb, but it was the first time that a pianist asked for her piano to be tuned in this system to be able to get hold of the sound and look for the best possible interpretation”.


Kimhïyo tells us a bit about how haikus are defined in Japan, to avoid falling into some Western generalizations when adopting them.

Haiku has substantial rules. If they are not met, we fall into another modality called "senryu", used for poems that are just as short as haiku but do not meet all the rules, which are the following:

1. The syllables always must follow the 5-7-5 pattern.

2. You must use a word that refers to the season of the year, the “kigo” It is useless to use the name of the season directly. There are even “kigo” lists that serve as inspiration and are often memorized by professionals.

3. No feelings. It is a photo or an image that serves as a metaphor to evoke feelings, but it cannot use expressions such as "I am sad" or "I have fallen in love".

Often, in haikus composed in foreign languages, these rules are broken. For this reason, David's composition winks at each of the aspects.

1. The title "Imatges estacionals" (seasonal images) refers to the actual definition of haiku

2. The title of each song corresponds to the "kigo" that appears in the chosen poem

3. The sound of each song evokes images and sensations, like the cicada's song or the movement of the wind, of death...

As the composition is divided into four seasons, a selection process for the haiku associated with each one was necessary, which was as follows.


Tabi ni yande

I get sick in the middle of the trip

Yume wa kareno wo

My dream, by the arid field (or mount)


Goes everywhere

The first haiku we decided on was this one. It seems that, in the early morning of October 9, 1694, Basho was in bed and asked a disciple to write down this haiku. He had been sick for a month, and, without warning, this was his last haiku. He died in Osaka, where he was traveling, four days later. According to a disciple's diary, he had made this trip in Osaka to mediate a dispute between two disciples.

We call "Jiamari" to the fact that the first stanza has 6 syllables instead of 5. One study deduces that Basho probably did it expressly, since right after it became fashionable to do "Jiamari" to emphasize a word.


Shibaraku wa

For a short time

Hana no ue naru

Will be on the sakura blossoms

Tsukiyo kana

The moon at night

We were clear that spring should have for "kigo" the "hana", the flower of Sakura (cherry tree), since this tree is the most important symbol for the Japanese.

Hana, meaning flower(s) in Japanese, here becomes synonymous with cherry blossoms, “Sakura” in the ancient poetic term. Cherry blossoms bloom in early spring. Despite their spectacular beauty, they last very little, and for this reason they are the symbol of the ephemeral nature of life or beauty.



Already the Silence

Iwa ni ape iru

Penetrates the rocks

Semi no koe

The voices of the cicadas (or the cicada)

During the summer, we picked up the famous poem in which Bashō talks about the cicada, or cicadas (the Japanese language does not differentiate between the singular and the plural. If he had composed it at the beginning of summer, it would be in the singular, because in that season it is usually only feel).

This haiku is included in the travel chronicle Okuno hosomichi, and that is why we have a writing about the context in which he composed it: “There is a temple in a high mountain, it is very far away and there is a lot of silence. (...) It is a mountain made of rocks, you don't feel anything in the temple, which is well closed. The panorama is so silent that it made me empty my mind (or feeling).”


Akikaze no

The Autumn Wind

Fukedomo aoshi

Although it is already blowing, green they are

kuri no iga

Chestnut skewers

Finally, we decided on autumn, thinking about the combination with the others. We wanted something with movement, and the theme of the wind was going very well. We laughed because, despite being a 17th century haiku, it seems to be talking about climate change when it describes a “hot autumn”.

The haiku was written in 1691, which, it seems, was a year with very high temperatures in autumn, and for this reason the chestnut fruit was still green (chestnuts dry up and fall in the cold). In Japanese, the colour blue ("aoshi") is used to indicate that the fruit is not ripe, as it happens in Spanish with "green".


After this introduction, David Llorens explains the composition process and the decisions he made when adapting the poems:

The music of the images does not keep any structural form with the 3 verses of 5-7-5 syllables of the haikus. Each one has a different structure and, if the music requires it, the verses or words are repeated, changing the rhythm of the haiku.

Although the compositions are based on Western harmony, all of them contain some characteristic of Japanese musical art, either because of the scales in which they are made (it would be the case of summer and winter), because there is the use of some popular melody (such as spring) or because there are imitative characteristics of Gagaku music (such as autumn).

Although the work is a single piece, it is divided into four joined parts. In some cases, this union occurs through silence or "MA".

“Hana”: cherry blossoms –in Japanese, “Sakura”– (spring)

There is a long introduction the melody of which is taken from the Japanese folk song Sakura Sakura (Puccini used the same theme for La Bohème), and motifs from Vivaldi's spring are superimposed on this melody. This allows me to treat the music in a bimodal way, since Sakura Sakura is on a Japanese scale, also called “Sakura”, which has the color of a minor key, and Vivaldi's spring has a clearly major key. Afterwards, there is a passage that imitates the song of the birds and that is also inspired by Vivaldi (this same passage will be used later as Coda of the piece).

The text melody is also inspired by the song Sakura Sakura. The structure consists of repeating the first verse twice, followed by the second, and this is played three times in a row with different transports and piano accompaniments. The third verse is only sung once at the end, just before the Coda (the Vivaldi-inspired birdsong).

“Semi”: cicada, or cicadas (summer)

This haiku speaks of the summer silence only broken by the song of the cicadas or the cicada. Therefore, it begins with a long rest (“ma”) and the haiku melody, based on a Japanese scale, is sung without accompaniment.

This time, the lyrics of the haiku are sung all at once and without repetition, just as the poem is. Only at the last verse do we begin to feel the song of the cicadas, represented by the piano and which lasts for a whole long interlude on agreements (made in the same Japanese pentatonic scale). When the interlude ends, in the form of a coda, the haiku melody is played again with some variations, again without accompaniment and with only a few touches from the cicadas.

“Akikase”: autumn wind (autumn)

In this image, the piano makes some arpeggios inspired by the harmony of the Japanese liturgical music Gagaku that represent the wind, and above this atmosphere the voice sings the text of the haiku freely, repeating the words and going back and forth on the first verse of 5 syllables.

A second melody that contrasts with the first introduces the text of the second verse, which is interpreted (also playing with words) by the piano and the voice in unison, but there are small melodic and rhythmic variations between both instruments, as if it were an improvisation in which they were chasing The operation of the melodic instruments of a Japanese instrumental formation is imitated, which insert small improvisations and changes in the repeated melody at moments with unison.

The third verse is said only once, recited, at the end, and just with the last syllable the initial arpeggios of the piano (the wind) start again, and the singer repeats the melody from the beginning, but articulating only the first two syllables. of the first verse.

In this part she used the twelve-note chromatic scale, a scale also used in traditional Japanese music, although it is true that, to an ear accustomed to Western music, it sounds musically like a pentatonic scale with ornaments and small chromaticism.

“Kareno”: the arid field (winter)

This was the first part that she composed, when she was still experimenting with Japanese modes and was not very clear about the direction the work would take.

Initially, the entire work had to consist of the three sentences of the haiku set to music, with a short piano introduction. When I sent it to Kimhïyo, but doubts arose. We were not sure that such short pieces could be accessible by the western public, so we made the decision to repeat the text of the haiku 3 times. This caused us to change the name of the composition from “4 Seasonal Haiku” to “Seasonal Images”.

Another problem was Kimhïyo's fear that the piano would cover his voice since the melody is written in its low register. For this reason and adding that I loved the first performance she did with solo voice without accompaniment, I decided that the voice would sound alone after the piano introduction, and that the piano would enter later to make a small interlude and, then yes: that the voice would recount the melody, this time higher pitched and with some variations, with piano accompaniment. After this, the piece is followed by a long silence and the melody is repeated in a low register, a bit varied and without piano accompaniment, which only intervenes to highlight the last note.

The dialogue between the Western, Catalan, and Japanese traditions, which includes ACOUHYB's many sound possibilities, is very present throughout the work, we hope the public enjoys it!

Nadja Bas

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