Haiku have long elicited fascination on the part of Western poets and other artists who’ve been taken with their allusiveness and conciseness. How well their subtleties of form and content have been understood outside of Japan is a matter of controversy, but in some respects this doesn’t matter, at least to the extent that they’ve inspired independent works of art. With The Spring of My Life Andrea Massaria and Clementine Gasser literally translated a set of haiku into musical performances that are uniquely their own.
The two bring similar backgrounds to the music. Massaria, here on guitar, electronics and effects, is active in Trieste and Venice; he studied classical guitar before moving into jazz, improvisation, and other experimental fields. Gasser, from Switzerland, also studied classical music and jazz. Together, their playing shows an adventurousness tempered by a sense of structure.
For this set of pieces Massaria and Gasser took a series of haiku by the classic poet Kobayashi Issa and crafted mixed graphic/verbal scores around them. Like the three-line, seventeen-syllable poems, the individual pieces on The Spring of My Life are succinct—the shortest is under two minutes and longest is a still economical six and three-quarters minutes long. Also like haiku, these pieces work through suggestion and indirection. Each is an atmospheric vignette focusing on the interaction of space and color. Massaria and Gasser never crowd each other, but instead leave open spaces for each voice to develop unhurriedly. There are piano-like cascades over stabs of cello, uncluttered lines finely weaving in and around each other. Massaria in particular brings a wide palette of colors to his playing, suggesting at various times the sounds of the harp, organ, steel drums, and more. As this stubborn winter gives way to spring, The Spring of My Life makes for a reinvigorating soundtrack.