|Genre Categories||; ; ; ; ; ; ;; ; ;|
|I-Catalogue NumberI-Cat. No.||IVF 73|
|Year/Date of CompositionY/D of Comp.||1975|
|First Performance.||1976-05-22, Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont; Sine Nomine Singers and the Contemporary Quartet (Jean Ingraham, violin, Thomas Kornacker, violin, Jacob Glick, viola, and Chris Finckel, cello), Vivian Fine, conductor|
|Librettist||Various Zen masters, sermons from the 10th to the 12th centuries. See Movements/Sections for their names.|
|Average DurationAvg. Duration||31 minutes|
|Composer Time PeriodComp. Period||Modern|
|Instrumentation||Eight solo singers or small chorus and string quartet|
Among my notes when I was writing the piece is a quote from T.S. Eliot: “to apprehend/ /the point of intersection of the timeless / With time, is an occupation of the saint.” And from Bronowski’s The Common Sense of Science: “The most difficult question in science concerns the question of order. The notion of order cannot be defined on any ground except its success. It cannot be put into a science in advance at all. Order is the selection of one set of appearances rather than another because it gives a better sense of the reality behind the appearances.”
Technically, the string parts are composed entirely from a “constellation” of 163 notes which appear at the very beginning. They are modified and transformed in many ways. The vocal parts have their own music that does not involve the procedures used for the instruments. I remember being very absorbed by how these different musics fitted together.
…Teisho’s layerings, texture manipulation, and advanced string writing resemble ideas Fine experimented with in Missa Brevis. Also, both pieces reflect her spiritual inquiries at the time. Zen training was becoming much more available in the United States during the mid-1970s, and Fine, a voracious reader, explored some of D.T. Suzuki’s writings and selected several Zen stories to set to music. As indicated on the score, “Teisho are the sermons or talks delivered by the Zen masters to the disciples.” Often a teisho involves a puzzle that is difficult for the listener to comprehend, and Fine’s Teisho is no exception. For her it was an opportunity to be “interested in two kinds of time, seamless and measured."
…Fine divided her composition into two parts and chose three texts for part one…and three for part two. Teisho is continuous, with only a slight pause between parts one and two. Careful elisions join the ending of one text to the beginning of the next. A change in meter and rhythmic texture announces a new text.
What was musically exciting in these sermons was the way harmonic structures that are smaller than the full 12 tones, but much larger than anything Mozart would have recognized, emerged from open-ended dialogue. Here was post-modernism at its finest.