Written over a weekend in 2003, Orchid Incense is based on three originally unrelated haiku by Basho, and is scored for soprano, piccolo, muted trumpet in C, clarinet in B-flat/bass clarinet, double bass, and percussion.
I selected and ordered the haiku based on their metaphorical congruency, as there are streams of images such as sky, birds, butterflies, and flowers which flow throughout and also may be thought of as metaphors for each other.
In researching the origins of this Japanese form of poetry, I discovered that most classical haiku are structured around a "cutting word." This is usually a word or a phrase found in the middle line which serves as a turning point in the poem. On a larger scale the middle haiku also acts as a "cutting word" for the set. I chose to timbrally reflect this with an instrumentation of the muted trumpet, but also including struck crotales and triangle.
As each image returns, a web of relationships is woven by the same melodies being remapped on an ever decreasing set of pitches, from 12-tone to whole tone. The last pitch of the piece, the bowed vibraphone C-natural, is outside the given pitch collection, which suggests an open-ended question of continuance often portrayed by the Eastern haiku.
On a bare branch
a crow has settled
A strange flower
for birds and butterflies
the autumn sky.