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Miyagi Haikus

“Miyagi Haikus”, written by Sandeep Bhagwati in response to the triple catastrophe that hit Japan in March 2011, is a comprovisation score that can be performed in many ways and many different instrumentations. The score is a series of seventeen musical haikus, each based on the traditional Japanese structure of 17 syllables ) in three short lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables ,with a kind of synthesis or surprise in the last line The 17 haikus are also ordered in this format: the first five are notated without fixed rhythm; the next seven are notated only as rhythms (no fixed pitches), and the last five combine rhythms and pitches to yield conventionally notated compositions.  While the material leaves a great deal of freedom, the reading instructions to the score precisely lay out specific ways to make use of this freedom, thus allowing  interpretations within the vernacular and idiosyncratic peculiarities of every musician and tradition. Over the past 7 years, many ensembles and soloists have presented the Miyagi Haikus in concerts and recorded them in studio: a trio of New York jazz greats, an ensemble for new music, several soloists of different musical traditions, as well as electronic musicians. In autumn 2018, the Berlin-based label dreyer gaido will release a publication comprising 5 of these versions on 2 CDs. A listener can thus trace the variety of music generated by  this comprovisation score. This website will give you access to the score, the score notes, the program notes, live recordings, and press reactions.


The LISTEN [MIYAGI HAIKUS]  Project will take place at the HKW in Berlin on January 11 and 12, 2019. It will bring the score to life in a four step process. In it, the Miyagi Haikus are analytically and artistically explored. The title LISTEN plays with the English and German meanings of this word: in German, the word “Listen” means both lists and tricks. Lists: heterogeneous elements that do not belong but are forced together by the list, and Tricks: intelligent solutions needed to overcome seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Bhagwati thinks that listening may be one of the central metaphors for understanding the digital world, especially when words and images overwhelm us with multiple, hard-to-correlate layers of two-dimensionality. Our new alphabets must be multi-dimensional; framing understanding as an exploration of the stucture of sonic landscapes. The project LISTEN uses the Miyagi Haikus score and its manifold interpretations to examine these different dimensions through a wide variety of listening processes and audible transformations.
Over the two days, this project will unfold in 4 components that will inhabit several spaces of the HKW Berlin. The first, PLAY LISTEN, performs three versions of the Haikus on separate stages in one room, with the musicians surrounding the audience. Each concert is unique: the sequence of Haikus, the concert playlist, so to speak, will be produced by a random generator, yet the result will be a concert experience akin to a symphonic narrative in which themes, motifs and sounds recur, creating an emergent dramaturgy. In the second component, READING LISTEN, poets will be asked beforehand to listen to the recorded versions of the Haikus and write short texts in response to the tracks that appeal to them.This texts will then be presented in an installation. The third component, LISTEN IN, is a creative process taking place in open rehearsal time. Sixteen musicians will collaborate in one-and-a-half-days of rehearsals, incorporating the work from READING LISTEN and PLAY LISTEN. The rehearsal process will be open to the public, and live-streamed: it will also allow conversations with audience members about the progress of the work, ending in a second concert. Finally, in LISTEN NOTES, the project is published as a programme booklet, in which the complete score and all poems written for the project are reprinted, together with theoretical essays on Listening, on Tricks, on Lists.
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