Ryōkan (1758–1831) is an immensely popular figure in Japan. A mendicant monk who never had much time for official posts and instead spent his time playing hide and seek with the local children or drinking sake with whomever would invite him, Ryōkan is remembered principally for his poetry and the stories told about him. This extended piece is based around a selection of his poems tracing his life from his youth to his old age, complemented by field recordings made during a residency at Eleuzína, Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia, by whom this piece was commissioned. The everyday sounds of this magical central-Slovakian city are infused by Ryōkan’s poems, which often focus on the natural world, Zen, and friendship, though they also – particularly the later works – reflect on sadness, grief, old age, and disease.
Premiere: 13 July 2022, Eleuzína, Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia.
Music, concept, field recordings: Ian Mikyska and Milan Kárník Jakeš.
Duration: 45 minutes