The most recent addition to my on going song cycle The Fisherman Songs is The Fishing Rod. This song has three points of conscience influences. The following 6th century Chinese poem by Shen Yuëh provides the text:
Not only does my “cassia boat” drift “easily and free,”
But verdant banks are also winding in and out.
My light line stirs the tender water plants;
The muffled oars arouse a solitary duck.
I tap the gunwales, heedless that the sun is setting;
Till my dying day I’ll make this my delight.
I was very excited when I stumbled upon this poem as I spent hours reading translated poetry by Shen in the low greenish lit stacks of Stony Brook University. I was in fact looking for another poem by the same author but this poem is perfect. I was looking to compose a short song (3:00) whose subject was the beauty one finds while fishing.
Coincidently, just after I found this poem I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw this Chinese painting by Wu Zhen painted some 750 years later titled the The Fisherman.
I meditated on this painting and poem as a tandem and a third source of inspiration came to me, “The Fisherman’s Song” from Stravinsky’s Opera Le Rossignol:
What Stravinsky’s song and mine have in common in addition to a fairly static presentation are the first three intervals (or four notes) of the melody: m3 – m2 – m3. Originally, I was using a motive from an older chamber piece of mine, Plexus, and cycling the notes of this four-note motive (C#-E-D#-F#) by reordering them and similar to the opening of the Stravinsky melody. But then I chose to alter my version somewhat to become more of a variation of the Stravinsky including using part of the tail of his melody. What differs is how the melodic lines relate to the harmony. Here is a midi realization from the middle of my song (measure 22-32). The cello patch substitutes the lyric bass (text: My light line stirs the tender water plants; The muffled oars arouse a solitary duck.):
Here is the score for entire song:
The Fishing Rod