Written for: Riley Lee, Enigma Quartet; Commission note: Commissioned with funds provided by Australia Council.
My fascination with the shakuhachi began as a postgraduate student in England, when I came across Goro Yamaguchi’s now classic LP A Bell Ringing in the Empty Sky, a collection of traditional solos. I made a habit of listening to it before going to sleep at night. Years later, in Australia, I met Grand Master Riley Lee, under whose guidance I began composing for the instrument. My first piece, Raft Song at Sunrise, was commissioned by Ross Mellick to accompany an exhibition of his bamboo constructions in the New South Wales Art Gallery, and it has remained in Riley’s repertoire. Other pieces followed, including Dawn Mantras, in which the shakuhachi figures prominently, and The Heart of Night , composed for Riley as soloist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
The shakuhachi is especially remarkable for its capacity to evoke natural sounds like wind, water and birdsong. It can also sound like the human voice. In Voice of the Rain I’ve tried to integrate these qualities into an imagined dialogue between the human and natural worlds. Voice of the Rain was composed especially for Riley Lee and the Enigma String Quartet with assistance from the Australia Council.
Voice of the Rain was premiered by Riley Lee, shakuhachi, with the Enigma Quartet on 26 November 2017 in the Independent Theatre, North Sydney.