Three Summers’ Heat

Excerpt: “Midsummer”

Instrumentation: Soprano or mezzo and electronic playback
Duration: 17:30
Commission: The Barlow Foundation
Premiere: 6/9/89
Marilyn Boyd DeReggi, mezzo
Synthèse 89, Bourges Festival
Bourge, France

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Program Note:

Three Summers’ Heat, whose title and inspiration come from the sultry summer lyrics of fifth-century Chinese poet Tzu-yeh, is scored for soprano or mezzo and electronics. Commissioned by the Barlow Foundation, for the Sistrum Ensemble, it was premiered by Marilyn Boyd DeReggi at the Synthèse 89 Bourges Festival in France. She requested a piece inspired by summer for a program built around the seasons and I decided to focus on summer. Tzu-yeh’s lyrics are brief but telling and the seven contrasting poems I chose link cycles of nature with those of human feelings. They also speak to the evanescent nature of all.

I would like to thank Marilyn Boyd DeReggi for the English language samples used in the electronics and to Professor Anne Behnke Kinney for the Chinese ones. The English translations, by Lenore Mayhew and William McNaughton, are used with permission from the Charles E. Tuttle Company. Three Summers’ Heat was recorded by Susan Narucki on the Centaur label on the CDCM Computer Music Series. The piece is also available in a version for soprano or mezzo, flute, viola and harp commissioned by the Azure Ensemble and their director flutist Susan Glaser, creating a different timbral world, where my goal was the same: to create a sonic atmosphere that meets the poetic one. For more information, visit –JS

 Three Summers’ Heat

1. Just now the sea-green banners fly
Late spring’s already spilled away.
Forest magpies change to summer tropes,
And from the wood just now the loud cicadas cry.

II. Just now the early peach is red;
Will beauty mean that mine won’t please,
But go unlooked for and ungathered
Like dropped flowers from mid-summer trees?

III. It’s midsummer and too hot to walk.
My thoughts are tight as tangled silk.
I take a boat and drift among the lilies
And scatter them in Rose Hibiscus Lake.

IV. Summer earth is windless. Heat still presses.
Sparse clouds cluster when night skies come.
Thick leaves are hiding two joined hands
And the gaudy gourd covers the plum.

V. Light clothes, few clothes
No brocade for me.
These are hot and howling winds
If these devil days of summer ever pass,
You’ve my promise
I will powder, rouge and dress.

VI. I remember desire like white light
And that you left as though you longed to stay.
Whispy mists half-hide the lotus flowers
I see the blossoms but the color blurs.

VII. I lift my head and look at Tung trees
Those flowers I love the most of all.
I wish that we had neither storm nor snow
And Tung trees had a thousand years to grow.

Press Quote:
“Shatin’s Three Summers’ Heat…used electronically generated sounds in poetic contexts. Haunting taped voices, speaking in English and Chinese, were part of the aural collage that mingled with the declamations of DeReggi, a stylish performer with a knack for interpreting lyrics in unusual settings such as Three Summers’ Heat.
The Washington Post

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