for soprano and piano


From among the many beautiful haiku written by my mother-in-law, Kaoru Karigane, I selected these five to set to music.  They suggest to me a mother’s special love for a daughter who lives far away in a distant country.  I have organized the poems to create a kind of haiku narrative about the mother’s memories of special moments in her life: moments colored with loneliness, boredom, longing, joy, pain, and love.


Dedicated to my wife Mutsumi Moteki and her mother Kaoru Karigane


-David Kirtley




I.烏瓜 唯揺れている 真昼どき

II.花みずき 真白に吾子と 離れ住む

III.猫じゃらし 駈けて来る孫 帽子背に

   IV.大寒や ひとりあやとり ひとりいて

   V.水鳥も 雁も見ずして 年暮るる




Romanized texts with both literal and poetic translations

Note: Where both literal and poetic translations have very similar word order, there is only one translation given.

When word order is significantly different the literal translation appears first, followed by a more poetic one.)


I.     Karasu-uri                               Red squash

       tada yureteiru                          just swinging

       mahirudoki.                             mid-day.


II.   Hanamizuki                             Dogwood                                     Dogwood pure white––

      mashironi wagakoto                 pure white, my child from            living apart from my child.

      hanare sumu.                           apart living.


III.   Nekojarashi                           *Nekojarashi                                 Grass stalk in hand,

      kakete kuru mago                   running comes grandson             my grandson comes running,

      bōshi seni.                               (his) hat on (his) back.                 his hat on his back.


*nekojarashi – a type of grass, the stalk of which is topped with a fluffy cylindrical spike.

Children and adults often use it to play with a cat.


IV.  Daikan ya,                               The coldest winter day,

      hitori-ayatori                             playing solo string-figures

      hitori ite.                                   all alone.


V.   Mizutorimo                               Ducks neither                              Without seeing

      karimo mizushite                      geese neither seeing,                 any ducks or geese,

      toshi kururu.                             the year ends.                             the year ends.


Japanese haiku by Kaoru Karigane (1925-2011)

All haiku used by permission of Kaoru Karigane

Translations by Mutsumi Moteki and David Kirtley

Music by David Kirtley (b. 1954)




I have always loved William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, reflecting on these often paradoxical rhymes at every stage of my life. The settings of The Lamb and The Tyger here recorded were originally written in 1978 for an early music group consisting of just eight singers called The Dowland Consort. I knew them as fellow members of a local Bach choir and wrote these choral settings with their individual voices in mind. They were performed at a chapel in Tiburon to accompany a sermon about William Blake's "the doors of perception" from his poem "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell."


If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.

For man has closed himself up till sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.


My intent was to embody the feelings each poem evoked in a dynamic, polyphonic musical texture. The simple, joyful nature of The Lamb and its counterpart in the human psyche is contrasted with the forbidding "Tyger," an impenetrable force that is impervious to human sentiment and whose mode of being summons a kind of remote and perplexing psychic 'other' that steps in and creates disorder.


In reviewing these choral settings after so many years, I found their music still lively and expressive, but felt that The Tyger didn't live up to it's potential. Thus, I have revised and improved a formerly 'knotty' "Tyger," while keeping its main themes and mood. The Lamb, on the other hand, only required a bit of tidying up.


-Joanne Carey


THE LAMB by William Blake


Little Lamb, who made thee?

 Dost thou know who made thee?

Gave thee life, & bid thee feed

By the stream & o'er the mead;

Gave thee clothing of delight,

Softest clothing, wooly, bright;

Gave thee such a tender voice,

Making all the vales rejoice?

 Little Lamb, who made thee?

 Dost thou know who made thee?


 Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,

 Little Lamb, I'll tell thee

He is called by thy name,

For he calls himself a Lamb,

He is meek, & he is mild;

He became a little child.

I a child, & thou a lamb,

We are called by his name.

 Little Lamb, God bless thee!

 Little Lamb, God bless thee!



THE TYGER by William Blake


Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?


In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand dare seize the fire?


And what shoulder, and what art,

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand? and what dread feet?


What the hammer? what the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? what dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?


When the stars threw down their spears,

And watered heaven with their tears,

Did he smile his work to see?

Did he who made the Lamb make thee?


Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye,

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?



Lux aeterna

Lux aeterna was written for the Trinity University Choir (San Antonio) and their former director Scott MacPherson in 2004. In anticipation of the choir’s tour to Germany in 2005, I was asked to write a piece that would be suitable for performance in the Cologne Cathedral. In thinking about that large reverberant space, the words of the Lux aeterna seemed most appealing to me. With that in mind, this piece uses soft, glowing textures, an attention to color, and long held tones to express the images of light, the eternal, and the perpetual. The opening four notes present the core melodic and harmonic components of the piece.


This work may also serve as the last piece (Mvt. V) of Lux Caelestis, an entire cycle of works drawn from different religious traditions that deal with the subject of light. That cycle was completed and premiered in 2011 by the San Antonio Chamber Choir also directed by Scott MacPherson. Many elements or fragments of notes used to represent light in the Lux aeterna are integrated into all movements of the larger cycle.


-Timothy Kramer



Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,

cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,

quia pius es.

Requiem aeternam, dona eis, Domine,

et lux perpetua luceat eis




Let light eternal shine upon them, O Lord,

with thy saints forever,

for Thou art merciful.

Rest eternal grant them, O Lord,

and let perpetual light shine upon them.



Remembering All: Five Sandburg Poems

Carl Sandburg is a composer’s poet.  American yet universal, contemporary yet timeless, concrete yet lyrical, he conjured compelling images and ideas. The rhythm and structure of his lines cried out for musical settings — or so I felt in the mid 1990s when I tried my hand writing part-songs.  These five poems look back wistfully on past love. Joy introduces the set with advice to sing and love when the chance “runs by” and do it heartily, avoiding “little deaths.”  Monotone recalls rainfall and sunshine, finding both beautiful and reminiscent of “a face I know.”  The quiet night Under The Harvest Moon brings thoughts of mortality, lost love, and “beautiful, unanswerable questions.” Then the lively I Sang salutes the abandon of being in love, tinged with sadness and solace that “the moon remembers .…”  To close, Follies moves us through springtime until May brightens with roses and sun and affectionately “finds your face, remembering all.”  While I’ll let the music speak for itself, it reflects nostalgia I was feeling at the time. Now 20 years later and approaching the 50th anniversary of Sandburg’s death, I was glad to revisit this suite.  I think this “beautiful friend” has aged well; I hope others hearing this work for the first time will find it speaks to them too.


- Christopher Hoh





   Let a joy keep you.

Reach out your hands

And take it when it runs by,

As the Apache dancer

Clutches his woman.

I have seen them

Live long and laugh loud,

Sent on singing, singing,

Smashed to the heart

Under the ribs

With a terrible love.

Joy always,

Joy everywhere —

Let joy kill you!

Keep away from the little deaths.





   The monotone of the rain is beautiful,

And the sudden rise and slow relapse

Of the long multitudinous rain.


   The sun on the hills is beautiful,

Or a captured sunset sea-flung,

Bannered with fire and gold.


   A face I know is beautiful —

With fire and gold of sky and sea,

And the peace of long warm rain.



Under The Harvest Moon


   Under the harvest moon,

When the soft silver

Drips shimmering

Over the garden nights,

Death, the gray mocker,

Comes and whispers to you

As a beautiful friend

Who remembers.


   Under the summer roses

When the flagrant crimson

Lurks in the dusk

Of the wild red leaves,

Love, with little hands,

Comes and touches you

With a thousand memories,

And asks you

Beautiful, unanswerable questions.



I Sang


I sang to you and the moon

But only the moon remembers.

     I sang

O reckless free-hearted

                    free-throated rhythms,

Even the moon remembers them

And is kind to me.






The blossoms of lilac,

     And shattered,

The atoms of purple.

Green dip the leaves,

     Darker the bark,

Longer the shadows.


Sheer lines of poplar

Shimmer with masses of silver

And down in a garden old with years

And broken walls of ruin and story,

Roses rise with red rain-memories.


     In the open world

The sun comes and finds your face,

     Remembering all.




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