Composed by Harvey Sollberger (1978)
For solo alto flute
Published by C.F. Peters Corp.
Notes on the Program:
The Japanese concept of “hara” has both a physical and spiritual meaning. The literal definition of “hara” is “belly,” or more specifically, the region of the body which lies just below the navel. Spiritually, “hara,” the center of the body, also represents the human relationship to, and realization of, the primal life force. It constitutes a state in which the ego is submerged into the primal unity of all things. As such, “hara” is that state of self-mastery and inner calm which does not fear death. Only from this response to the world can perfection of thought, action, and art be achieved. The state of “hara” releases supernatural strength from within which permits the possessor to realize extraordinary feats which could not otherwise be accomplished even with the most potent technique, greatest concentration, and most ardent willpower.
Sollberger's Hara for solo alto flute, composed in 1978, is informed on a number of levels by the Japanese concept. Its physical relationship to Japanese culture resides in the incorporation of sounds from that culture's musical world in to a twentieth-century musical language. Many of the techniques of tone production are found in Japanese music – inhalation into the instrument, key clicks, modification of tones with the tongue, embouchure and throat – derived literally and in spirit from the Japanese art of the “shakuhachi,” creating a sensitive syntheseis of Western and Eastern musical approaches.
In addtion to the physical resemblance to aspects of the Japanese world, the concept of “hara” breathes physical life into the very structure and processes of the piece. In writing on “hara,” Karlfried Durckheim relates a story about his archery lessons with a Japanese master. Every time the author made progress and looked as if he was about to master the next step, the teacher would make the task more difficult. In some agitation about being prevented from achieving his goal, Durkheim questioned his teacher who replied to his student: “When a man, perhaps after a long struggle, has achieved a certain form in himself, in his life, in his work, only one misfortune can then befall him – that fate should should allow him to stand still in that achievement. If fate means well by him, it knocks success out of his hands before it sets and hardens… What endangers inner development more than anything else? Standing still in his achievement. A man must go on increasing, endlessly increasing.”
In Hara Sollberger ingeniously uses a Western approach to pitch organization but arrives at this organization through the portal, so to speak, of the Japanese philosophical view of “hara.” The notion of “ever-increasing,” of searching and self-mastery, is expressed in the “framing” techniques which surround the body of work. Beginning and ending the piece, these frames contain intense, active music which “tests” different pitch constructions, slowly arriving, after ardent musical search, upon the pitches and the order of pitches that form the piece's twelve-tone set. The pitch material in these frames has been described by the composer as the “primordial muck out of which is generated the pitch structure of the body of the piece.”
The music contained within the frames is characterized, for the most part, by a slower, more reflective and inflected music. Here numerous techniques of tone production are used to wring the greatest expressive characteristics out of each note. As the piece progresses, short sections of rapid active music, clearly defined, are juxtaposed with slower, more broadly spaced music.