Tea Poems (2009)
for solo piano
Tea Poems is a set of three (so far) meditations on the art of brewing and drinking different teas as well as the importance it has had in my daily life. Begun in the summer of 2008 at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, I started these pieces as an attempt to make simple, intimate and personal expressions, in response to the work of writers and visual artists who I was in residence with at the time. The idea of using a metaphor, such as tea, which figures prominently in my own life, as a starting point for a series of musical ‘poems’ seemed as good a place as any for self-exploration.
The first poem, First Pouring, is a description of the proper brewing of a good cup of tea (the tea in my mind was Mao feng, a mellow green tea I adore). The tea is brought out fresh, put into a warm cup. The water is filled up a third of the way and swirled around, then finally filled up letting the leaves float and settled to the bottom. The second, Shifting Tastes of Oolong, is a variation of sorts. I have spent many afternoons drinking oolong with friends in tiny cups as the taste slowly changes subtly as the time goes. It’s a wonderful reminder of how seemingly unimportant repetitive actions are constantly changing in wonderfully simple ways. The last of the set, Sharing Ceylon and Cylons, was written the day after I watched the finale of the new Battlestar Galactica with my wife, Lynn. We had both been moved greatly by this wonderful show, watching every episode with a good cup of black tea with milk. Few simple memories are as meaningful to me as that one, drinking tea as the crew of Galactica and I both find our home.
• Listen to a live performance by pianist Angela Park here.