umoregi (if exposed…) (2014-16)

Daryl Jamieson

string quartet

Commission: Quatuor Bozzini, with support from the CCA

Program Notes

Tanka and haiku, the principal forms of traditional Japanese poetry, are extremely short; usually 31 and 17 syllables each. In order to create meaningful poetry in such short expressions, Japanese poets used — and continue to use — an interrelated set of symbolic words called pillow words, expressions that have gradually accumulated depth and meaning over 1200 years of usage. umoregi is one of these words. It literally refers to pieces of petrified wood that would periodically emerge from certain riverbeds, but symbolically came to suggest a secret that threatens to be exposed, to the detriment of the writer and/or addressee of the poem. Mainly this was used for illicit love affairs, but also for political conspiracies and even as a metaphor for death.

This piece, in the intertextual tradition of Japanese art, adds another sliver of connotation to the constellation of meanings of this rich word.