3 Haiku

Complete Work Title: 

3 Haiku (after John Ashbery)

Performance Medium: 

mezzo-soprano and percussion


In three movements



Date Composed: 

September 1989

Additional Information: 

Composed as part of the doctoral qualifying examination at Indiana University.

Performance/Broadcast History: 
  • 31 October 2011, University of North Texas (Denton, TX)

    Nicole Christensen, mezzo-soprano; Damon Kelley, percussion

  • 11 October 2009, Center for the Visual Arts (Denton, TX)

    Heidi Dietrich Klein, mezzo-soprano; Joseph Klein, percussion

  • 8 November 2006; University of Texas (Austin, TX) — 2006 Percussive Arts Society International Conference
  • 3 February 2004; Central Michigan University (Mount Pleasant, MI)

    Mia Spencer, mezzo-soprano; Andrew Spencer, percussion

  • 8 February 1995; University of Central Washington (Ellensburg, WA)

    Linda Marra, mezzo-soprano; Andrew Spencer, percussion

  • 17 March 1994; Morehead State University (Morehead, KY) — MSU New Music Festival

    Heidi Dietrich Klein, mezzo-soprano; Frank Oddis, percussion

  • 11 April 1991; Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

    Heidi Dietrich Klein, mezzo-soprano; Joseph Klein, percussion

  • 2 April 1991; Roulette (New York City, NY) — Composers’ Forum “New Music/New Composers"

    Joan La Barbara, mezzo-soprano; John Arrucci, percussion

Program Notes: 

3 Haiku for mezzo-soprano and percussion was composed in September of 1989 as one of two documents that comprise the major field portion of the doctoral qualifying examinations at Indiana University. A text is provided for this project and the composer is required to compose a setting given certain specifications within a twenty-four hour period. In this instance, the following haiku by John Ashbery were provided:

     I. A pencil on glass—shattered! The water runs down the drain.
    II. In rays and crystals, sometimes with a shred of sense, an odd dignity.
   III. What is the past, what is it all for? A mental sandwich?

Because of the brevity of the text and the time constraint of the project, these settings are correspondingly terse. My continuing interest in numerical sequences and resultant cyclical patterns directed me toward a formal design based upon the numbers 3, 4, and 5, which is applied proportionally at several structural levels and manifested in a variety of ways. This relationship is reflected at the deepest level in the durations of each haiku setting: the first setting is 1:20, the second is 1:40, and the third is 1:00 (thus resulting in the ratio 4:5:3); each individual setting is itself proportioned similarly, these divisions being delineated by textural and dynamic contrast as well as pitch distribution (pitch material being likewise divided into groupings of 3, 4, and 5); finally, this sequential pattern is reflected at the surface within the basic rhythmic structure.

As for the actual setting of the texts, each of the three haiku is itself separated into three parts, these portions then being set in contrasting ways according to the system outlined above. Thus, while the texts themselves are brief, the interpretive possibilities contained within them are thoroughly explored in this ostensibly rigid (though inevitably liberating) manner of text setting.