Lyrics by: Tomas Tranströmer (1931 – 2015)
Translated by: BEI, Dao (1949 – )
Music by: SHEN, Ye (1977 – )
First performance: April 8, 2017 | Heidelberg, Germany
by Lini Gong, soprano | Burkhard Kehring, piano

In the autumn of 2016, the German Festival Heidelberger Frühling invited me to compose a new work for the Divan of Song project, to be performed by coloratura soprano Lini Gong and pianist Burkhard Kehring in April, 2017. The new composition should be related to Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde.

Chinese Tang poetry was translated into French, then rewritten as German, and eventually became the lyrics of Das Lied von der Erde. Likewise, as I was searching, Tomas Tranströmer's "Gogol" came to mind. This Swedish poem depicts the life of the Russian dramatist Nikolai Gogol. It has been translated into English and then re-translated into Chinese.

While I accompanied my mother during the last two months of her life, I would take the night train back and forth, and the last paragraph of this poem often flashed in the night sky outside the train window:

"Look outside, see how darkness burns hard a whole galaxy of souls.

Rise up then on your chariot of fire and leave the country!"

(English: Robin Fulton)

Music and human life are similar: both of them engage with time and with the tendency to leave its meaning. The human voice, in particular, has a kind of magic. This magic has not been consciously emphasized, but one perceives it naturally as the sound fades in evanescent time.

Perhaps drawing their inspiration from language, for nearly 50 years European avant-garde composers focused on the deconstruction and fragmentation of words and syllables, or brought various noise-like sounds from nature into voice; however, there has been very little exploration of the gradual change between syllables, vowels and consonants with different flow-rate gradients. For example, in my practice, the Chinese word ”” (means “as”, “like”) can be pronounced with a very fast flow rate to make aʃʌn-like sound, or could be slowly pronounced from the approximateʃiːtojɛːand then[ɑːfinally goes toŋ. For this word ””, each stage of the changing speed is controllable, and further it can be combined with different speed of intonation and dynamic gradients, different breath and vibration, to achieve rich and varied sound morphs.

Furthermore, there is a key difference from the past avant-garde music: the voice-grade skill does not break the meaning of the word; it remains a natural but extremely sophisticated sound experience.

In music, with different flow rate of voice-grade processing, when the lyrics drift to the key syllables, it is like artificially adjusting the speed. That creates the flexibility of time. This music with time curvature is very similar to our memories of life:

Instantly shining
casts a halo toward eternity.

Shen Ye
Feb. 4, 2017

果戈理2017

词:托马斯·特朗斯特罗姆(19312015
译:北岛(1949-)
曲:沈葉(1977-)

中文的唐代原诗译为法文,再改写为德文,最终成为《大地之歌》的歌词。而我寻寻觅觅,特朗斯特罗姆的《果戈理》印入眼帘。这首描写俄罗斯戏剧家果戈理一生的瑞典文诗歌,译成英文再被转译成中文。在我陪我母亲度过她生命最后的两个月期间,在我不断往返的夜火车上,这首诗的最后一段常常闪现在车窗外的夜空中:

"看外边,黑暗怎样焊住灵魂的银河。
快乘上你的火焰马车离开这国度!"(北岛译)

音乐和人的生命很相似,它们都面对时间企图留下意味。人的歌喉尤其有一种并未被深刻认识到的魔力:它自然地善于在时间渐逝中展现声音的渐变。

或许由于语言的启发,近50年欧洲的先锋音乐着重解构语词为碎片,或引入噪声音效到嗓音探索中。而音节间、元音和辅音间不同流速的渐变却为之甚少。在我的实践中,比如中文的,可以用很快的流速发出近似[ʃʌn]的声音,也可以很慢地从近似[ʃiː]渐变为[jɛː]再变为[ɑː]最后为[ŋ]。其中每个阶段变化的速度都是可控的,还可结合不同速度的语调和力度渐变,不同的气息和颤动,展现为丰富多变的声音形态。

与以往的先锋音乐更有一个关键不同:这不会肢解词义,仍旧是自然的,但极为精细的声音体验。

随着音乐中不同流速的声音渐变处理,歌词流淌到关键字节上时,就像被人为变速,造就了时间的弹性。这种带有曲率的音乐时间,像极了我们对于生命的记忆:

瞬间的闪亮
向着永恒投下一道光晕。

201724
沈葉

原诗:

果戈理(1949
托马斯·特朗斯特罗姆

外套破旧得像狼群。
面孔像大理石片。
坐在书信的树林里,那树林
因轻蔑和错误沙沙响,
心飘动像一张纸穿过冷漠的
走廊。

此刻,落日像狐狸潜入这国度,
转瞬间点燃青草。
空中充满犄角和蹄子,下面
那马车像影子滑过我父亲
亮着灯的院子。

彼得堡和毁灭在同一纬度
(你看见倾斜的塔中的美人了吗)
在冰封的居民区像海蜇漂浮
那披斗篷的穷汉。

这里,那守斋人曾被欢笑的牲口包围,
而它们早就去往树线以上的远方。
人类摇晃的桌子。
看外边,黑暗怎样焊住灵魂的银河。
快乘上你的火焰马车离开这国度!
(译中文:北岛)

Tomas Tranströmer : Gogol (1949)

(English translation by Robin Fulton)

The jacket threadbare as a wolf pack.
The face like a marble slab.
Sitting in the circle of his letters in the grove that rustles
with scorn and error,
the heart blowing like a scrap of paper through the inhospitable
passageways.

The sunset is now creeping like a fox over this country,
igniting the grass in a mere moment.
Space is full of horns and hooves underneath
the barouche glides like a shadow between my father’s
lit courtyards.

St. Petersburg on the same latitude as annihilation
(did you see the beauty in the leaning tower)
and around the ice-bound tenements floating like a jellyfish
the poor man in his cloak.

And here, enveloped in fasts, is the man who before was surrounded by the herds of laughter,
but these have long since taken themselves to tracts far above the tree line.
Men’s unsteady tables.
Look outside, see how darkness burns hard a whole galaxy of souls.
Rise up then on your chariot of fire and leave the country!

Tomas Tranströmer : Gogol (1949)

(original Swedish text)

Kavajen luggsliten som en vargflock.
Ansiktet som en marmorflisa.
Sitter i kretsen av sina brev i lunden som susar av hån och misstag,
ja hjärtat blåser som ett papper genom de ogästvänliga passagerna.

Nu smyger solnedgången som en räv över detta land,
antänder gräset på ett ögonblick.
Rymden är full av horn och klövar och därunder
glider kaleschen skugglik mellan min faders upplysta gårdar.

Petersburg beläget på samma breddgrad som förintelsen
(såg du den sköna i det lutande tornet)
och kring nedisade kvarter än svävar manetlikt
den arme i sin kappa.

Och här, insvept i fastor, är han som förr omgavs av skrattens hjordar,
men de har för länge sedan begivit sig till trakter långt ovanför trädgränsen.

Människors raglande bord.
Se ut, hur mörkret bränner fast en vintergata av själar.

Så stig upp på din eldvagn och lämna landet!

Ye Shen, Composer

Dr. Ye SHEN is Associate Professor of Composition in the Composition Department, Shanghai Conservatory of Music. He has been a visiting lecturer at Hamburg Music and Theater Hochschule (2009), visiting scholar at Berlin Arts University with the support from China Education Ministry (2011), and has studied and worked as a Resident Composer at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (Ircam) – Cursus 1 (2013 – 2014).

SHEN was awarded the Bach-Preis-Stipendium by the Senate of Hamburg (2011) and the “Music Theory Honorable Mention of China National Golden Chime Award” by the Chinese Musicians Association (2011). He is the 1st Winner in the 13th National Music (Symphony) Awards administered by China Ministry of Culture for Wen Hua Music Creation (2007), etc.

Ye SHEN’s works have been performed frequently in Mainland China, Asia, the U.S. and Europe. He has cooperated with several well-known orchestras including the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Opera House Orchestra, Hongkong Chinese Traditional Orchestra, and has completed commissions for the Universität Witten / Herdecke (Germany), Finisterra Trio (U.S.), Ensemble InterContemporain (France), TIMF Ensemble & Klangspuren Festival in Austria, the "Sounding D 2010" new music festival in Hamburg, Asia-Europe Foundation (Philippine), Shanghai Spring International Music Festival and Shanghai Cultural Development Foundation, among others.