Hokku - (2007)
E. E. Cummings
originally for medium voice and piano
I care not
Should the world remember me
In some tomorrow.
And who is for the long road
Loves not to linger.
For him the night calls,
Out of the dawn and sunset
Who has made
[ 1 page, circa 1' 10" ]
E. E. Cummings
Published in the Harvard Monthly, in April of 1916, this three
sentence statement seems quite the credo for Cummings' later work. There is
is the act of creating a pressure and urging on which is not content to
revel in what was just done. Stravinsky suggests much the same in his
response to the question as to which was his favorite work. The correct
answer is "the one I am working on now." That is the journey and the
creative soul "loves not to linger."
Hokku seems the older spelling for haiku, a genre of poetry which was given
its current name by the Japanese writer Masaoka Shiki at the end of the 19th
century according to the WIKI article I consulted. Other scholars offer
other explanations according to their research, but as I choose these words
to be used as a single song lyric, such scholarship is of little consequence
to its function as a single text for singing, be it one poem or three
published together by the Harvard Monthly.
The traditional 3 line form of alternating 5- 7- 5 syllable
lengths is not quite exact for the last strophe when translated into music,
but the use of three of these singular forms in one poem is also a variant.
The form, however, is of less consequence than the message therein. While
some would count the word, "poem," as meeting the criteria, for being two
syllables, in setting to music the text it becomes more akin to those
diphthongs (as in Italian and German) in which one vocalization is completed
with the second vowel only quickly touched upon. For the scholar of haiku
forms and syllabification in spoken language who is not a singer nor
polyglot, this will not be apparent, while to the worldly singer is a normal
practice. But then again, to quote Cummings from another moment of wisdom,
"You and I are human beings;most people are snobs."
For medium voice, this gentle setting of the three statements lie
symmetrically across a seven-measure period in the accompaniment, with the
last period extended into a final cadence, D-flat in the accompaniment
forcing the D in the vocal line to move, suggesting that the creative
process "loves not to linger."
The score for Hokku in the medium key is available as a free PDF
download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work
is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the
graphic below for this piano-vocal score.