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Donald Womack天の浮き橋 The Floating Bridge of Heavenshakuhachi, shamisen, string quartet 尺八、三味線、弦楽四重奏14:002014
Japanese creation mythology speaks of a bridge that connected heaven and earth, a passage by which the gods could access the world below. This floating bridge of heaven, Ame no ukihashi as it was called, presents an evocative image, with myriad mystical possibilities. What would it be like, this bridge whose two ends exist in such utterly different worlds?

The idea of standing between two places, not quite existing in either, but sensing both, was the impetus for 天の浮き橋 The Floating Bridge of Heaven. While considering how I might approach the unique ensemble of shakuhachi, shamisen and string quartet — to my knowledge, this is the first-ever piece for this combination — the image struck me as an apt metaphor for combining these instruments from different musical worlds.

Evoking both the mystery of the floating bridge and the vastly different realms on either side of it, the piece progresses through sections of widely varying character. Beginning in a shroud of mist, the music seemingly hovers, drifting in and out of focus, as vague wisps of musical ideas float by, forever falling away into the vaporous haze below. As the shamisen begins impelling the music forward, a theme, which will return throughout the remainder of the piece, gradually appears and takes hold. The rhythmic character is interrupted repeatedly, often by a recurring motive that suggests an echo into infinite space. As if passing between earth and heaven, the music shifts between sound worlds, moving in and out of measured time with frequent short, cadenza-like passages for shakuhachi. Eventually, after several climaxes and a driving solo passage for shamisen, the clouds lift briefly to let through a brilliantly luminous glimpse of heaven itself, with time suspended, which just as quickly fades as the opening mist returns and the music quietly evaporates into the ethereal vastitude enveloping the bridge.
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