Three Summers’ Heat

Excerpt: “I Remember Desire”
Azure Ensemble with soprano Gayla Bauer Blaisdell


Instrumentation: Soprano (or mezzo), flute, viola, and harp
Duration: 17:30
Premiere: 3/4/06
Azure Ensemble
Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre
New York, NY

View Score

Program Note:

Three Summers’ Heat, whose title and inspiration comes from the sultry summer lyrics of fifth-century Chinese poet Tzu-yeh, is scored here for soprano or mezzo, flute, viola and harp. The Azure Ensemble and their director Susan Glaser commissioned this scoring after hearing the original for soprano or mezzo and electronics. That version was commissioned by the Barlow Foundation and premiered by Marilyn Boyd DeReggi at the Synthèse 89 Bourges Festival in France. 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.  The original version of Three Summers’ Heat was recorded by Susan Narucki on the Centaur label on the CDCM Computer Music Series.   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.

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