Language of Flowers › 2016
    soprano, nine instruments | 12:25 | texts by Motojiro Kajii | for Tony Arnold and the Composers Conference
[instrumentation: soprano; ensemble: flute/picc, bass clarinet, trumpet, trombone, vibraphone, piano, violin viola, cello]
premiere: Tony Arnold, James Baker, Composers Conference Ensemble; July 30, 2016 at Wellesley College, MA

in three sections:
'Under the Cherry Trees’ | ‘Sub Rosa’ | ‘Lemon

n o t e s

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.

score: pdf download | hard copy


Tony Arnold, soprano / James Baker, conductor
Composers Conference Faculty Ensemble
[live on 7.30.16 at Wellesley College]