Conversations with My Soul

Bun-Ching Lam composer
Thomas Buckner baritone

Release Date: February 5, 2021
Catalog #: NV6336
Format: Digital & Physical
21st Century
Chamber
Vocal Music
Piano
String Quartet
Voice

Newly released from Navona is CONVERSATIONS WITH MY SOUL, a collection of new chamber works from acclaimed composer-pianist Bun-Ching Lam. The music sets in different languages the poetry of Shelley, Heine, Rimbaud, and Lasker-Shüller, as well as the poems of 9th Century Chinese mystic Han Shan and contemporary writer Etel Adnan. In a compositional voice The New York Times has called “alluringly exotic,” Lam incorporates baritone voice, piano, viola, flute, French horn, and harp to elucidate timeless works concerning life’s fundamental questions. With a thoroughly contemporary sensibility informed by tradition, Lam’s CONVERSATIONS WITH MY SOUL offers listeners a fitting soundtrack for their own existential ponderings.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 5 Songs from Cold Mountain: No. 1, Clouds and Waters Bun-Ching Lam Han Shan, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Barry Crawford, flute; Liuh-Wen Ting, viola; Mélanie Genin, harp 4:02
02 5 Songs from Cold Mountain: No. 2, The Metaphor of Life and Death Bun-Ching Lam Han Shan, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Barry Crawford, flute; Liuh-Wen Ting, viola; Mélanie Genin, harp 2:52
03 5 Songs from Cold Mountain: No. 3, When Happiness Comes By Bun-Ching Lam Han Shan, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Barry Crawford, flute; Liuh-Wen Ting, viola; Mélanie Genin, harp 2:46
04 5 Songs from Cold Mountain: No. 4, Body or No Body Bun-Ching Lam Han Shan, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Barry Crawford, flute; Liuh-Wen Ting, viola; Mélanie Genin, harp 3:42
05 5 Songs from Cold Mountain: No. 5, Cold Mountain Bun-Ching Lam Han Shan, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Barry Crawford, flute; Liuh-Wen Ting, viola; Mélanie Genin, harp 2:52
06 Last Love Songs: No. 1, When Passion's Trance Is Over-Past Bun-Ching Lam Percy Bysshe Shelley, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Bun-Ching Lam, piano 2:45
07 Last Love Songs: No. 2, Remembrance Bun-Ching Lam Percy Bysshe Shelley, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Bun-Ching Lam, piano 4:32
08 Last Love Songs: No. 3, Music, When Soft Voices Die Bun-Ching Lam Percy Bysshe Shelley, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Bun-Ching Lam, piano 2:48
09 Age d'Or Bun-Ching Lam Arthur Rimbaud, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Tim McCarthy, french horn 6:39
10 3 Cadeaux (Excerpts): No. 1, Ein alter Tibetteppich Bun-Ching Lam Else Lasker-Shüller, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Bun-Ching Lam, piano 3:44
11 3 Cadeaux (Excerpts): No. 3, Lotosträume Bun-Ching Lam Heinrich Heine, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Mélanie Genin, harp 5:21
12 Conversations with My Soul (Live) Bun-Ching Lam Etel Adnan, text; Thomas Buckner, baritone; Tana Quartet | Antoine Maisonhaute, violin; Ivan Lebrun, violin; Maxime Desert, viola; Jeanne Maisonhaute, cello 20:42

Tracks 1, 11 recorded May 9, 2018 at Systems Two in Brooklyn NY
Session engineer Tom Hamilton

Tracks 6-10 recorded July 12, 2019 at Scott Lehrer Sound Design in New York NY; Session engineer Alex Venguer

Track 12 recorded live on November 16, 2018 at the Interpretations concert at Roulette in Brooklyn NY
Session engineer Woromon Jamjod

Mastering engineer Oscar Zambrano

Cover art adapted from Sea by Etel Adnan

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Jacob Smith

VP, Audio Production Jeff LeRoy
Audio Director Lucas Paquette

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Sara Warner

Artist Information

Bun-Ching Lam

Composer, Pianist

Described as “alluringly exotic” (The New York Times), and “hauntingly attractive” (San Francisco Chronicle), the music of Bun-Ching Lam has been performed worldwide by such ensembles as the Macao Orchestra, American Composer’s Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, The Vienna Radio Orchestra, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, and the Albany Symphony. Born in Macao, Lam served as the composer-in-residence of the Macao Orchestra from 2008-2016. She began her piano study in her native city, then further pursued her music education in Hong Kong and the United States.

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Thomas Buckner

Thomas Buckner

Baritone

For decades, baritone THOMAS BUCKNER has dedicated himself to the performance and promotion of new and improvised music, collaborating with a host of new music luminaries including Robert Ashley, Noah Creshevsky, Tom Hamilton, Earl Howard, Matthias Kaul, Leroy Jenkins, Bun-Ching Lam, Annea Lockwood, Roscoe Mitchell, Phill Niblock, Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Threadgill, Chinary Ung, Christian Wolff, and many others.

Buckner has appeared at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Berlin Spring Festival, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Prague Spring Festival, and the Angelica Festival of Bologna, among others. He is featured on over 50 recordings, including six solo albums. For the past 31 years, Buckner has curated and produced the Interpretations New Music Series in New York City, seeking to support the relationship between composers and the growing community of virtuoso new music interpreters.

thomasbuckner.com

Liuh-Wen Ting

Viola

A dynamic and multifaceted performer, LIUH-WEN TING enjoys collaborating with artists from diverse genres and mediums. As an advocate of contemporary music, she has premiered and recorded numerous solo and chamber music works, including music by AACM members George Lewis, Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abraham, as well as works by George Walker, Bun-Ching Lam, Frances White, Shih Hui Chen, Elliott Sharp, Mari Kimura, and many others.

She has performed at international festivals such as The Prague Spring Music Festival, The Warsaw Autumn Music Festival, Primavera en la Habana international electroacoustic music festival, and the Ostrava New Music Days. Her performance of Morton Feldman’s Viola in My Life IV with the Janáček Symphony Orchestra was praised by the Czech Music 2001 as “an extraordinary experience.”

Tim McCarthy

French horn

New York based French hornist TIM MCCARTHY appears regularly with numerous orchestras, opera companies, contemporary music ensembles, and on Broadway, in such wide-ranging venues as Carnegie Hall, the Guggenheim Museum, and Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park.

He has performed with the Janáček Philharmonic (Czech Republic), New York City Opera, Philharmonia Orchestra of New York (PONY), Manhattan Chamber Orchestra (principal), DiCapo Opera Theatre (principal), Little Opera Theater of NY (principal), The Strathmere Festival Orchestra (principal), The New Philharmonic of New Jersey, and the School of American Ballet Repertory Orchestra.  A frequent and avid performer of contemporary music, he has performed and recorded with The Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble (principal), Ostravska Banda in the Czech Republic (principal), Ensemble Signal (principal), IFCP Ensemble, International Contemporary Ensemble (I.C.E), American Chamber Opera Orchestra, and STX Xenakis Ensemble.

Barry J. Crawford

Flute

Flutist BARRY J. CRAWFORD is a member of the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, Talea Ensemble, Poetica Musica, and Ensemble Pi. He is principal flute with the Western New York Chamber Orchestra, the Spectrum Symphony in NYC, and has performed as a guest artist with orchestras across the United States.

He has performed and given master classes in over 20 countries on five continents. As a leading performer on the contemporary music scene, he has premiered hundreds of new works by emerging composers. In the fall of 2018, Crawford joined the faculty at the State University of New York at Fredonia and has previously served on the faculties of Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music, University at Buffalo, and Sarah Lawrence College.

Mélanie Genin

Harp

Hailed as a “singular harp virtuoso,” MÉLANIE GENIN is known for her “desire to re-shape and re-invent classical music.” Since her solo debut at Carnegie Hall, Genin has performed in the world’s most prestigious halls, including Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Royal Albert Hall London, KKL Luzern, Avery Fisher Hall, and Théâtre des Champs Elysées, under conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Sir Mark Elder, Alan Gilbert, Pablos Heras-Casado, and Leonard Slatkin.

A sought-after chamber music partner, Genin regularly performs with Grammy-nominated violinist Elmira Darvarova (former concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera). She forms a trio with flutist Lucian Rinaldo and cellist Samuel Maguil (Metropolitan Opera), and a duo with flutist Catherine Gregory.

Tana Quartet

Ensemble

Hailed as “impeccable players” (The Guardian), the TANA QUARTET approaches music of different eras and aesthetics with equal intensity, creating a new tradition that links past and future. Tana has appeared at prestigious festivals and concert series worldwide, including Philharmonie de Paris, Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, Villa Medicis in Rome, Darmstadt, and Wigmore Hall.

The quartet has been honored with numerous awards such as the Union of Belgian Composers’ Fuga Prize, an Octaves de la Musique for contemporary music, the Coup de Coeur of the Charles Clos Academy, and an HSBC Award at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence.

Since its founding in 2010, Tana has been committed to promoting contemporary music in all its diversity and seeking out collaboration with composers, such as  Ivan Fedele, Philippe Hurel, and Hèctor Parra. The quartet has

Notes

This album documents the long-term collaboration between baritone Thomas Buckner and composer Bun-Ching Lam. From 1995 to 2016, Lam has composed some nine works for Buckner, with different accompanying instruments ranging from piano and harp to string quartet. The texts for the compositions are multilingual, including English, French, and German, by various poets from Shelley, Rimbaud, and Heine to the Lebanese poet Etel Adnan.

Commissioned by Mutable Music for Thomas Buckner, this piece is a setting of five poems attributed to Han Shan, (meaning “cold mountain”). A legendary figure who flourished in 9th-century China, little is known of Han Shan’s work, since he was a recluse living in a remote region and his poems were written on rocks in the mountain where he lived. But his poetry has influenced poets of many generations and cultures. He is particularly loved by the Japanese, and was an important figure for the American Beat Generation writers such as Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac.

— Bun-Ching Lam

LAST LOVE SONGS is a setting of three poems by Shelley. Written in 1995, it was the first piece I composed for Thomas Buckner which marked the beginning of our collaboration.

— Bun-Ching Lam

AGE D’OR was written for Thomas Buckner in 2011, in celebration of his 70th birthday.

— Bun-Ching Lam

EIN ALTER TIBETTEPPICH was a birthday present for Gunnar Kaldewey. Mr. Buckner premiered the song on August 24, 2006.

— Bun-Ching Lam

LOTOSTRÄUME is written for Kamala and Thomas Buckner, who have been my close friends for a long time. It is a setting of Heinrich Heine’s poem, which fittingly depicts their loving relationship. The premiere was given in Heidelberg on October 26, 2009.

— Bun-Ching Lam

CONVERSATIONS WITH MY SOUL, commissioned by Mutable Music for Thomas Buckner, was a present for Etel Adnan, in celebration of her 91st birthday. An amazing poet, painter, and philosopher, Etel is also one of the wisest and most generous people I have ever known. I am extremely honored to have met Etel through Tom in Paris, and my friendship with them both has deeply enriched my life. I find Etel’s language very musical; I am most attracted to the non-linear narrative and the elusive quality of her poetry. I envisioned this setting of her long poem Conversations with My Soul as monodrama in seven sections. The protagonist is the baritone, in dialogue with the string quartet, which acts at times as commentator, at others providing backdrop for the narratives.

— Bun-Ching Lam

Texts

Han Shan Text, translated by Bun-Ching Lam

I. Clouds and Waters

Between thousands of clouds and waters
There is a man of leisure.
During the day he roams the green mountains.
At night he sleeps below the cliffs.
Springs and autumns pass as in an instant.
Quietly he lives without the burdens of this earth,
Happily clinging to nothing,
Still as a river in autumn.

II. The Metaphor of Life and Death

To understand the metaphor of life and death
One should compare ice with water.
Water freezes to form ice.
Ice melts back into water.
What has died will become alive.
What lives will return to death.
Ice and water won’t hurt each other.
Both life and death are beautiful.

III. When happiness comes by

When happiness comes by
Enjoy it.
There is no time to lose.
Even though one says one hundred years is a lifetime,
No one lasts more than thirty thousands days.
If one only lives for an instant,
Why talk and chatter about money?
The last chapter of the Book of Piety
Tells you in detail how it all will end.

IV. Body or No Body

Is there a body or no body?
Is there an I or not I?
This is what I seriously contemplate,
Sitting above the cliff, while time is forgotten.
Green Grass grows between my feet.
On my head falls the red dust.
I already see people of the world gathering
To offer wine and fruit by my bier.

V. Cold Mountain

Once I arrive at Cold Mountain, all my cares come to a rest.
No more idle thoughts in my heart.
At leisure I write poems on rock murals,
And flow with the current like a boat moored.

Percy Bysshe Shelley Text

I. To —
When passion’s trance is overpast,
If tenderness and truth could last
Or live, whilst all wild feelings keep
Some mortal slumber, dark and deep,
I should not weep, I should not weep.

It was enough to feel, to see,
Thy soft eyes gazing tenderly,
And dream the rest – and burn and be
The secret food of fires unseen,
Couldst thou but be as thou hast been.

After the slumber of the year
The woodland violets re-appear,
All things revive in field or grove,
And sky and sea, but two, which move,
And form all others, life and love.

II. Remembrance
Swifter far than summer’s flight –
Swifter far than youth’s delight –
Swifter far than happy night,
Are thou come and gone –
As the wood when leaves are shed,
As the night when sleep is fled,
As the heart when joy is dead,
I am left lone, alone.

The swallow summer comes again –
The owlet night resumes his reign – but the wild-swan youth is fain
To fly with thee, false as thou.

My heart each day desires the morrow;
Sleep itself is turned to sorrow;
Vainly would my winter borrow
Sunny leave from any bough.

Lilies for a bridal bed –
Roses for a matron’s head –
Violets for a maiden dead –
Pansies left my flowers be:
On the living grave I bear
Scatter them without a tear
Let no friend, however dear,
Waste one hope, one fear for me..

III. To —
Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense the quicken;

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the beloved bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

— 1821

Arthur Rimbaud Text

Quelqu’une des voix
Est elle angélique
Il s’agit de moi
Vertement s’ex-plique:

Ce mille questions
Qui se ramifient
N’amènent au fond
Qu’ivresse et folie

Reconnais ce tour
si gai si facile
C’est tout onde et flore
et c’est ta famille

Et puis une voix
Est elle angélique
Il s’agit de moi
Vertment s’ex-plique

Et chante à l’instant
En soeur des haleines
D’un ton Allemand
Mais ardent et pleine

Le monde est vicieux
tu dis tu t’etonnes
vis et laisse au feu
l’obscure infortune

Ô jolie chateau
Que ta vie est Claire
De quel age est tu nature princière
De notre grand frère

Je chante aussi moi
multiples soeurs voix
Pas du tout publique
De gloire pudique
environnez moi

Golden Age
It is one of the angelic voices,
It concerns me to explain clearly:

Those thousands of questions which take root
bring in the end only drunkenness and folly.

I recognize this turn of events,
so gay, so easy
It is all waves and flowers,
and this is your family.

And then an angelic voice,
It concerns me to explain clearly:

It sings instantly
as if a sister to breath
with a tone German
but ardent and full.

The world is vicious
you say, you are surprised!
Live! leave to the fire the darkness of the unlucky.

O Lovely castle,
How bright is your life!
To what age do you belong,
Princely nature of our great brother.

I sing also, myself,
multiply the voices of the sisters,
not at all in public,
surround me with modest glory

Else Lasker-Shüller Text

Deine Seele, die die meine liebet,
Ist verwirkt mit ihr im Teppichtibet.
Strahl in Strahl, verliebte Farben
Sterne,die sich himmellang umwerben.
Unsere Füsse ruhen auf der Kostbarkeit.
Maschentausendabertausend weit,
Süsser Lamasohn auf Moschuspflanzenthron,
Wie lange küsst dein mund den meinen wohl
Und Wang die Wange buntgeknüpfte Zeiten schon?

An Old Tibetan Carpet
Your soul, which loves mine,
Is woven with it together into a Tibetan carpet.
Ray after ray, in enamored colors,
Stars court each other across the heavens.
Our feet rest on treasures,
Thousands and thousands of threads knotted together.
Sweet young Lama on the throne of musk roses,
How long has your mouth been kissing mine,
cheek to cheek in colorful knitted times?

Heinrich Heine Text

Auf Flügeln des Gesanges,
Herzliebchen, trag ich dich fort,
Fort nach den Fluren des Ganges,
Dort weiß ich den schönsten Ort.
Dort liegt ein rotblühender Garten
Im stillen Mondenschein;
Die Lotosblumen erwarten
Ihr trautes Schwesterlein.
Die Veilchen kichern und kosen,
Und schau!n nach den Sternen empor;
Heimlich erzählen die Rosen
Sich duftende Mährchen ins Ohr.
Es hüpfen herbei und lauschen
Die frommen, klugen Gazell’n;
Und in der Ferne rauschen
Die heiligen Stromes Well’n.
Dort wollen wir niedersinken
Unter dem Palmenbaum,
Und Liebe and Ruhe trinken,
Und träumen seligen Traum.

Lotus Dream
On wings of song,
Lovingly, I carry you forth,
Away, to the banks of the Ganges,
Where I know the most beautiful place.

There lies a red-blooming garden
In the still moonlight.
The lotus flowers await
Their beloved sister.

The violets giggle and cuddle,
And look up into the stars;
Secretly, the roses whisper in each other’s ears
Their fragrant fairy-tales.

The gentle, bright gazelles,
Hop around and listen;
And in the distance murmur
The waves of the holy stream.

There we will lie down,
Under the palm-tree,
Drink of love and peace,
And dream our blessed dream

Etel Adnan Text

Come along, my
fog, foggy
sky,
sky not disappeared,
(and fog),
because of fog horns
O angelic
figure once
beloved-
not even
dust today,
do not fear
this morning,
where I awoke
Come along
this road
gentle wind
be careful
the years
have gone
Listen, spirit,
ocean, friends
have left
for where there’s
no space,
no scratches,
a window
left alone
don’t worry
my love
Fog is no
sign, no
message,
just a passing
cloud

Nobody is coming
this night of
obscurity
The hill is descending
into that night
as slowly
as ever
We forgot the
warning,
soft grass
underfoot,
and fear,
always fear.

Days move
like we do,
they’re thrown away
down here
where we live

Sweet angels take
us by the hand
when we walk
to the beach,
the beach
mesmerizes

Allow me o God
in whom I don’t
believe
to finish this
line, this early evening
I return to the fog
because it is
me,
it has a magnitude
that humans lack, it covers spaces

How lonely
can one become,
thinner than
a dream,
as planted
as a tree

Blood is
no perfume,
but in some
cities it
flows freely

Yes, the fog
is ominous,
faithful companion, unifier of
concepts

Movies live
live fast, they end, then
return,
we are a
screen,
nothing else

A year of railroad
tracks, of earthquakes,
the will is tired
Death moves in
like a soft
wind
between
layers
layers
of dread

You, you hover, hover above
my impoverished
nudity
but we can’t return
to where we started

In a city stressed
by the light
unredeemable, A lover
weighs,
on the body,
on memory

The sea is not
deep enough to
contain the hour
that just went
unnoticed

We are undone by
beauty’s effect on
the arteries
its carnivorous
essence,
its solitude

my soul,
nights are long when you’re
sleepless,
Forget that you
inhabit my limbs,
Try to
survive
Don’t worry,
sit down, my
soul,
I’ll close the
door

Fear me not,
I may leave you
soon,
which one of us will descend
first into
hell?
we’re at a loss

The fog has entered
my nostrils
in this blind street
Not a single leaf
is left over my heart to
be peeled off
everything is
expendable
Devastating for the
spirit, always,
is the next wave.
The one coming from you and in front of me,

Let the fog in,
The one coming from you
and covering
my soul with your substance,
your destiny

Sit, sit in front
of me
sit, we’re used to seeing
through the dark

In the nights of
her absence
my body
was waiting,
for her soul

We know fog over matter,
Fog in stupefaction
stupefaction,
my body was at odds,
odds, odds,
with yours,
breaking down

We can’t make up
for lost time
how can we?
You’re no more.
This thing that I am–
dear soul—
will decompose,
we know,
where would you go
then?
happiness happiness came from it,
not from divinities

There’s malady in
the air
the waters are temporarily
exalting the
world.
The coffin went
down
the alley,
death is simply the
end of meaning.
As my body thinks
painfully
what’s left for you,
if not this love,
so ancient in
difficulty ,Oh why?
I want to take you,
my soul,
to the
largest rivers

listen – think
how fast that river was

the rock is granite,
heated,
cut,
gasping for
air

lines of cockroaches
leaving the basement
for our beds
the father holding
a burning
rod
teaching
punishment

The fog is
moving in with
force

Her body will not
return to mine
and I will not return

The multiplicity of
the love and the lie
has been
the knife of
my undoing,
pieces,
distributed
along the road

It rains on my
brain
fear has settled.

O my soul, am
I you?
when I’m talking to you
it’s because I think you
will listen,
knowing you might not…

but the involvement with
you, is
fatal.

every window thinks of
itself as being an
opening