Pictures of the Floating World
for clarinet and piano
Duration: 1' 30"
Tony Park & Joshua Vigran: Ukiyo-e Ukiyo-e: Pictures of the Floating World
Ukiyo-e: Pictures of the Floating World was composed for clarinetist Thomas Piercy and pianist Claudine Hickman, who gave the world premiere performance in New York on April 8, 2012, as part of the 15 Minutes of Fame program on the Composer's Voice Concert Series. The video above by Tony Park, clarinet, and Joshua Vigran, piano, was awarded the 2015 Burke & Bagley Prize.
Ukiyo-e (literally "pictures of the floating world") is a genre of Japanese woodblock prints and paintings produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries, featuring motifs of landscapes, tales from history, the theatre, and pleasure quarters. It is the main artistic genre of woodblock printing in Japan.
Usually the word ukiyo is literally translated as "floating world," referring to a conception of an evanescent world, impermanent, fleeting beauty and a realm of entertainments (kabuki, courtesans, geisha) divorced from the responsibilities of the mundane, everyday world; "pictures of the floating world," i.e. ukiyo-e, are considered a genre unto themselves.
The novelist Asai Ryoi, in his Ukiyo monogatari (Tales of the Floating World, c. 1661), provides some insight into the concept of the floating world:
... Living only for the moment, turning our full attention to the pleasures of the moon, the snow, the cherry blossoms and the maple leaves; singing songs, drinking wine, diverting ourselves in just floating, floating; ... refusing to be disheartened, like a gourd floating along with the river current: this is what we call the floating world...