Program Notes: Himenami (The Divine Wave)

The Divine Wave
"The Divine Wave" by Michelle Pier
Dan Forrest
Dan Forrest, Composer
Charles Anthony Silvestri, Poet
Iwate Memorial
Iwate Tsunami Memorial

The Great East Japan Earthquake

On March 11th, 2011 a Magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the northeast coast of Japan, near the Tohoku region. The force of the earthquake sent a tsunami rushing towards the Tohoku coastline, a black wall of water which wiped away entire towns and villages. Sea walls were overrun. 20,000 lives were lost. The scale of destruction to housing, infrastructure, industry and agriculture was extreme in Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi prefectures. In addition to the hundreds of thousands who lost their homes, the earthquake and tsunami contributed to an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, requiring additional mass evacuations. The impacts not only shook Japan’s society and economy as a whole but also had ripple effects in global supply chains. In the 21st century, a disaster of this scale is a global phenomenon.  (Source: The World Bank)

Himenami (The Divine Wave)
by Charles Anthony Silvestri

Rose and indigo
Mingle as the rising sun
Heralds a new day.
All is silence-from pebble
To heart of ancient mountain.

Ocean waves whisper
Secrets to the silent shore,
Sand and foam embrace.
The sea has many secrets
Beneath her veil of billows.

Without warning
The mountains tremble
And the sea rises up;
A wall of water|
Sweeps away our future
In an instant.

All things fade away­
We are only wanderers
Upon this moment;
And yet we sing together,
In love against all shadow.

Notes by the Composer

This piece, commissioned in memory of the 2011 tsunami in Japan, was premiered by the Tenjo Hanabi Mixed Chorus in September 2013, in Osaka’s Izumi Hall. In the concert, the piece was performed first in English, with the choir’s regular accompanist, and then encored in Japanese, with me accompanying. Just as this piece combines elements of both Western and Japanese musical traditions, so, too, the whole event of the premiere was a strikingly beautiful symbol of international solidarity, amidst Japan’s continuing recovery from this horrific event. The response of the Japanese audience was overwhelming, making the whole event one of the highlights of my musical career thus far.

Tony’s incredible text uses the traditional Japanese tanka (see note) form for stanzas 1-2; this structure is then symbolically shattered in stanza 3, before then (again, symbolically), returning in stanza 4. Takako Helbig, a member of the Tenjo Hanabi choir, beautifully translated Tony’s text into Japanese while still carefully preserving both the poetic structure and the nuances of meaning of Tony’s English text. The piece may be sung in English or Japanese.

(Note: Tanka is a short lyric poem with syllables of five, seven, five, seven and seven. It is longer than haiku by the last two syllables.)

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