song cycle for mezzo-soprano and guitar

commissioned by Colin Davin and the Millenial Music Festival

Annie Rosen, mezzo-soprano
Colin Davin, guitar

Program Note:

When I lived in India in 2012, I was introduced to the work of Manav Kaul, an incredible Hindi-language playwright living in Bombay. Hindi is a language that has become increasingly anglicized in its evolution. While there is so much beautiful ancient work in Sanskrit and Brijbasha (some of Hindi’s precursors) there is no such wealth of work in modern shudh (pure) Hindi. In fact, much of the best modern creative writing by curent Indian authors is in English. Kaul’s work, though, provides a very special insight into the world of modern India through its native language. As a playwright, Kaul has a particular ear for the way words flow through time — the words he writes are designed to be heard aloud. Kaul’s poetry uses simple and direct language to express deep and complex sentiments.

Chuti Hui Jagah (छूटी हुई जगह – The Space Between) is a cycle of five of Kaul’s shorter poems. It is a series vignettes, each of which dwells in a different space between two objects, two events, two states. Ek Shabd (एक शब्द – One Word) explores the space between a single word falling onto a page, and a full play being read aloud. Neend (नींद – Sleep) explores the space between wakefulness and sleep, black and gold, life and death. Joota (जूता – Shoe) explores the space between pain and numbness. Chuti Hui Jagah (छूटी हुई जगह – The Space Between) explores the pregnant pause between two words, and the increasing distance between two lovers. And Aavaz (अावाज़ – Sound/Voice) explores the space between silence and sound.

Texts and Translations:

एक शब्द…एक शब्द…
थर-थर कांपता-सा,
पन्ने पर िगरा।
एक कहानी…
कविता के सुर में कही गई और नहीं कहीं गई,
जैसी बातों में पूरी हुई।
नाटक के से सुर में मैंने उसे,
डरते-डरते पढ़ा।
कहीं एक बच्चे ने,
थमे हुए पानी में एक पत्थर फैंका…।
और कहीं दूर,
अबाबील नाम की िचड़िया उड़ गई।


जूता जब काटता है…
तो जिंदगी काटना मुश्किल हो जाता है।
और जूता काटना जब बंद कर देता है…
तो वक्त काटना मुश्किल हो जाता है।


लंबे चले आ रहे सन्नाटे में …
दो बूंद आवाज़ की पड़ी।
दूर एक िचड़ियाँ,
अपना घर बनाने में…
चोंच को पेड़ पर मार रही थी।

One WordOne word…
Making a thar-thar shivering sound,
Fell onto the page.
One story….
What was said and unsaid in the flow of the poem,
Was completed in those thoughts.
From the tones of the drama,
I fearfully read it.
Somewhere, a child,
Pausing, threw a pebble into still water…
And somewhere far away,
A bird called the skylark flew away.


When the shoe bites
Then it becomes difficult to delineate (navigate through) the world
And when the shoe stops biting
Then it becomes difficult to delineate (navigate through) time.


From the long, epic silence
Two drops of sound fell
Far away, a bird
Making its home
Knocked a tree with its beak