Haiku Catharsis  (2004) for Pierrot ensemble - 8'

-fl, cl, vln, vcl, pno, perc

-Commissioned by eighth blackbird

-Premiered November 2004 at the Kimmel Center "Fresh Ink" Series

Program Listing

Haiku Catharsis (2004)

I. Night

II. Covered With Flowers

III. Late Cicadas

IV. Temple bell

Program Notes


Haiku Catharsis was written in the summer of 2004. The commission came from the American Composers Forum to write a new work for eighth blackbird, a group that has made a wonderfully indelible mark on the music world.

I don’t think composers often start with a title (in fact, sometimes composers add the title after writing the piece), but that’s exactly what I did here. I liked the inherent conflict of the words “Haiku,” and “Catharsis,” since haikus are all about quiet revelations and a catharsis

suggests the opposite. The use of the haiku form runs throughout the piece as a thread: each short movement is inspired by its own poem, and all of the music finds different ways to group into sets of five, seven, and five—as goes the syllabic structure of traditional haiku. The poems I chose each represent a season passing through the year. Haikus describe the objective details of revelation on the surface, but they speak to the deeply profound and emotional catharsis underneath. This is what I wanted to capture in creating the music.

Haiku Catharsis was commissioned by the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Composers Forum and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts for eighth blackbird, with funds provided by the William Penn Foundation.

These are the poems that inspired the four movements of Haiku Catharsis:

I. Night; and once again,

The while I wait for you, cold wind

Turns to rain. – Masaoka Shiki

II. Covered with flowers,

Instantly I’d like to die

In this dream of ours! – Etsujin

III. Late cicadas-

How much longing

In their song. – Soseki

IV. Sounds of a temple bell

Reverberate in a circle:

A long night. – Shiki


“Ludwig’s Haiku Catharsis for alto flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, and piano took that idea to a more lush, intoxicating place through four descriptively titled movements (“Late Cicadas” for one), all projecting an aura of deep meaning without saying what it might be. He’ll gain new fans with this piece…” –Philadelphia Inquirer

“Each section illustrates one of the four haikus printed in the program notes. The piano creates simulations of rain drops and temple gongs, but Ludwig’s achievement goes well beyond that kind of scene painting. Haiku Catharsis touches on some deep emotions, and it’s executed with skill and imagination. It contains beautiful moments for every one of the instruments Ludwig employs.” –Broad Street Review

“Ferocious energy colored by theatrical turns marks the ensemble’s [eighth blackbird's] approach. Its composers exploit that, asking intense rhythmical joining among flute and clarinet, cello and violin, piano and percussion. Ludwig offered a softly transparent, but no less intricate, set of intimate scenes. Molly Ann Barth’s alto flute proposed the mood; distant bass chimes and shadowy string sounds shaped the succinct scenes. The players moved about, facing each other, violinist Matt Albert kneeling, and at one point all facing cellist Nicholas Photinos. Like a haiku, the piece ended in intense quiet, a metallic chime just audible.” –Philadelphia Inquirer