“Haiku | 俳句” is a symphonic audiovisual project for two Japanese performers, alternating percussion groups, soundscapes and rhythmicized video sequences. The film is an experimental approach to pay tribute to the extraordinary art of Japanese haiku poetry.
Martin Gerigk is a composer of contemporary music. His repertoire includes compositions for orchestra and chamber music, as well as several solo concertos. In addition to his compositional work he is known for his remarkable audiovisual art. In 2007 he was engaged as “Composer in Residence” of the Orchestra of Hagen. The commissioned work “Backlights” was broadcasted in the WDR radio. His compositions are performed nationally and internationally including in Korea, Japan, USA, England, Finland, Austria and Switzerland.
In addition to his work as a composer Martin Gerigk is also in demand as an arranger of orchestral and chamber music of different eras. In this context he works together with renowned international soloists and ensembles, like Vilde Frang, the Fauré Quartet or the Mandelring Quartet.
His latest films “Structures of Nature”, “Rain” and “Energy” won several international prizes.
I first came into contact with haiku poetry in my youth. In a small library. There was a book with selected haiku by the great Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō containing the original Japanese version and an English translation. Probably then, the fascination for this extraordinary poetry seems to have embedded itself somewhere inside me.
The real dimension of haiku poetry only became clear to me while visiting Japan for the first time years later. The untouched, partly wild nature in Japan has an almost spiritual attraction. At that time, as a composer, I asked myself whether it is possible to capture these wonderful impressions in an abstract haiku that does not consist of words and syllables, but of music, text and photographic events. This is how the idea came about for the current project.
However, the implementation should take a few more years. In order to be able to select suitable traditional Japanese haiku for the film project in terms of content and sound, it was initially essential to fully learn all the official Japanese characters called kanji in order to be able to research in Japanese databases at all. A really difficult learning session!
For example, Kobayashi Issa, one of the four great haiku poets whose haiku I use in the film project, wrote more than 20,000 haiku. At first it looked as if it would be an almost impossible undertaking to find the suitable thematic texts for the film. So, it took several months to create the script for the film.
Following the typical structure of a traditional Japanese haiku the film contains 17 specific events divided in three parts of 5, 7 and again 5 units. All these events are built and derived from original Japanese haiku, contemporary text sequences, sound patterns, rhythmicized video sequences or pure music sections. In their entirety they create a kind of abstract and virtual “hyper-haiku” including a typical “seasonal” and “cutting word” called kigo and kireji.
The music of “Haiku | 俳句”is inspired by the omnipresent rhythms of nature. I therefore decided only to use percussion instruments for the music. In total, more than 100 individual instruments were recorded for the film project, an exciting experience. My special thanks go to Tobias Liebezeit, a true sound magician!
Working with the two actors was also a great asset. It was not easy to find two Japanese performers who were willing to communicate their inner feelings unfiltered only through facial expression and body language. With Eri Uchino and Cauro Hige I finally found the best actors that I can imagine for the film. The interaction during the shoot was absolutely fascinating and very touching.
Contrary to expectations, traditional haiku usually imply no personal views or emotional reflections in the first instance. They rather describe different frozen moments in juxtaposition, intended leaps of thoughts and images, crystallized and distilled to be perceived just like they are.
So, the speech, images and music of “Haiku | 俳句” are intentionally kept in suspense like in common haiku poetry. They wait for an audience to come to life eventually. An audience that is willing to get involved in discovering the hidden superordinate haiku within combined chains of intertwined poetic visual and auditive associations, patterns and layers. Just by this interaction the haiku finally gets complete and reaches a state of emotionality. And at best, something new and touching emerges for each individual viewer.
Overall, the implementation of the project was a very rich and wonderful experience. A time that I really enjoyed and that is still having an impact on me. I hope that I can take the audience on my journey into a very special world and culture. There’s a lot to discover!
When I look back, the film is probably nothing more than an absolute declaration of love for Japan, its people, culture and wonderful nature.