Rain Bell takes its inspiration and text from a haiku by the 18th century poet Kobayashi Issa. My favorite haiku tend to
capture and preserve a single moment in time, and extend that moment through contemplation. It’s very difficult to read these kinds of haiku without stopping to think about what they capture. The haiku that inspired Rain Bell is no exception.
The text essentially talks about the clanging of a temple bell in the mountains which, as it decays, is soon swallowed up in the sound of a spring rain. This concept is a distinctly musical one, and echoes the concept of inharmonicity, or the measure of the relative noisiness of a sound.
The goal of Rain Bell is to treat this haiku in much the same way that the haiku treats its own subject matter: by stretching the aesthetic environment of the work out over time to allow the listener to experience, exist in, and contemplate a single emotional space (however complex) for a longer period of time than usual. Part of this treatment involved extending the length of the text itself through phonetic deconstruction and stretching. While this renders the text of the haiku unintelligible, intelligibility isn’t the point of this work (after all, both the text and a translation are reprinted here). Instead, the individual phonemes exist simply as sounds within the larger context of the music as a whole, both noisy and musical.
Additionally, Rain Bell explores the techniques of sampling and quotation. While sampling has been widely accepted and elevated within popular music, it still seems to be met with a great deal of critique from the more conservative classical world. Yet, quotation, which is essentially exactly the same process, is often venerated by the same people who criticize the use of sampling. The notation and the electronic part both existed at one point as another piece of music, in many cases, the same piece as one another; here, they are transformed, recontextualized, and refromed to create the entirety of Rain Bell. Lastly, Rain Bell is a part of a series of works in which I explore the use of Ableton Live in contexts apart from the more popular music ones in which it is generally found. I wish to express my deepest thanks to Hannah Bartley for her help in the pronunciation of the original Japanese text.
Text and Translation
(yama no kane mo hitotsu hibike haru no ame)
clang once more
mountain temple bell!
Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)
translation by David G. Lanoue
Stephen Bailey’s piece 鐘の雨 (Rain Bell) will be performed on our October 28th concert, VERSE//CHORUS//NOVA.