by Yii Kah Hoe
Dedicated to EnviroLab Asia, The Claremont Colleges.
Premiered Fall 2015, Scripps College.
Recorded for Volume 2, Voices of the Pearl.
Forest Threnody is a major work for mixed choirs, soprano soloists, and pre-recorded soundtracks. The premiere was accompanied by a video montage and synthesized soundtrack by artist Steve Rowell. The creation was an international collaboration between composer Yii Kah Hoe (Malaysia), Steve Rowell, Charles W. Kamm, and Anne Harley.
The libretto was selected from both early Buddhist scriptures in Pali, poetry by A. Samad Said, and was sung in several languages (English, Pali, Bahasa Malaysia ). Yii’s composition also incorporates frog calls from the last remaining primary forest of Borneo, collected by Prof. Jennifer Sheridan (Yale–NUS).
The composition is intended to draw attention to the tragedy of environmental destruction, particularly in and around Borneo, the home of composer Yii Kah Hoe (Malaysia).
Gagak Parit (in Malay)
Dilihatnya gagak yang lara
kini kejang di parit
antara pejabat pos dan pangsapuri.
Disaksinya cungapan seorang
pesara, sawan seorang bayi
di klinik sesak sepagi,
semakin kurang dimengerti
inti kemakmuran jasmani.
Kerana di sini hanya kawasan
bersih bagi kehidupan cicitnya,
dungu mencemari rimba
yang tak akan dapat lagi
subur menyegari buminya
tanpa sedia bermaruah,
beratus tahun, merancangnya.
— A. Samad Said
The Dead Crow
He saw a dead crow
in a drain
near the post office.
He saw an old man
gasping for air
and a baby
barely able to breathe
in a crowded morning clinic.
This land is so rich.
Why should we suffer like this?
I want clean air for my grandchildren.
I want the damned fools to leave the forest alone.
I want the trees to grow,
the rivers run free,
and the earth covered with grass.
Let the politicians plan
how we may live with dignity,
now and always.
Chant, from Sumangalamatta’s verses in the Therīgāthā:
Rāgañca ahaṃ dosañca, cicciṭi cicciṭīti vihanāmi;
Rukkhamūlam upagamma, aho sukhanti sukhato jhāyāmī’’ti.
— Therīgāthā, 3, verse 24
I destroy desire and hatred with a sizzling sound.
I, going up to the foot of a tree (thinking)
“O the happiness,” meditate upon it as happiness.
— translated by Harry Aveling