Language of Flowers

instrumentation :  sop / fl (picc) / b.cl / tpt / tbn / perc / pf / vn / va / vc

2016
duration :  12'25"
written for the Wellesley Composers Conference
premiere :  July 30th, by Tony Arnold, James Baker, and the Composers Conference Faculty Ensemble

Under the Cherry Trees | Sub Rosa | Lemon

        Language of Flowers takes as its text excerpts from two short stories by the early 20th-century Japanese author Motojiro Kajii. The first, “Under the Cherry Trees,” is an exercise in controlled desperation, as the protagonist confronts death and the transience of life around him. “Lemon” is quite the opposite—a frantic, off the rails spiral into the surreal fantasies of a narrator consumed by an obsession with frivolous activities and decorative objects. Taken together, these two project a strange dichotomy: the resistance against emotion in the face of decay, juxtaposed with the willful descent into frenzied distraction from suffering in the external world. The title refers to the Victorian practice of applying plant symbolism in painting, literature, and high society activities, as well as to the Japanese equivalent of hanakotoba.

        Many thanks to Mahoko Taniguchi, who graciously provided transliterations for the texts. [full texts]