Shôrô, for string quartet, was premiered by the Tana Quartet at the Royal Academy of Belgium on March 6, 2014. This piece was composed after a stay in Koya-san (or Mount Koya), considered by the Japanese as a "sacred mountain" in the same way as Mount Fuji.
Shôrô is the Japanese word for the tower housing a bell, usually located near Buddhist temples. And it is the sound of a real bell, recorded at Koya-san, one of the main Buddhist centres in Japan, founded around the year 816 by the monk Kukai, that served as the "spectral model" for the initial section and the frame of this piece. This is an echo of the impressions I got from visiting this very special place.
When the sound of the bell goes out after his repeated call, making the silence that follows it more intense, two "images" emerge. The first evokes the Tamagawa, the river on the banks of which the mausoleum of Kukai has been erected and which symbolically marks the separation from this sacred space. The second is the experience of the long crossing of the Ukuno-in, a vast necropolis of more than two thousand tombs, situated in the middle of a forest of century-old cedars. Travelling through this veritable "kingdom of the dead", which bears witness to more than a thousand years of Japanese history, is nothing gloomy but, on the contrary, is a sublime experience.
These evocations, elliptical and evocative, following one another in the manner of musical haiku, are all imbued with typical modes in an attempt to synthesise Western classical music and traditional Japanese music.