I am writing in this book (2011)
“Andrew Schultz’s new work, I am writing in this book, adapts texts from The Pillow Book by 10th-century Japanese writer Sei Shonagon. In a pre-performance talk, Schultz said he started working on the texts in the 1990s but when Peter Greenaway’s eponymous film was released he put them to one side to avoid confusion between his work and that striking reinterpretation.
Schultz has selected five texts, moving from golden lyricism and love to a stormy list of Sei Shonagon’s dislikes before a quiet close.
The first song, A gift of paper, is a quietly radiant duet for soprano and mezzo-soprano in which Sei Shonagon states she will use the gift of some paper to write things she sees, hears and knows.
Schultz’s setting shares some affinities of classic female vocal duets in exploring the golden sound of female voices a third apart. It is a world away from the ”flower duet” of Delibes’s Lakme but shares some affinity with it as an orientalist representation of the female.
The third song, Language of women, erupts into something of a tantrum. While the conception of the final two quiet numbers was imaginative…” [Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 September 2011]
“The concluding composition, Andrew Schultz’s I am writing in this book, composed specially for Halcyon in 2011, set five songs in English from the tenth-century text the Pillow Book…The selections chart Shonagon’s growth as a woman from the singular vision of ‘A gift of paper’o the funereal ‘It is getting dark,’ set as a ghostly duet between the voices and cello. Overlapping sibilances and intense vocal patter added character to the work’s central three movements, in which powerlessness, revulsion and wonder all played compelling parts.” [Luke Iredale, “Winter Moon Secrets,” ClassikOn, 4 September 2015]
“Andrew Schultz’s innovative musical language … is enriched with multi-metrics, cross-rhythms, evocative word-painting and onomatopoeia. It explores tonality and rhythmic complexities for unusual mixes of instruments and voice. It exploits the range and technical possibilities of the soprano voice in particular. Soprano Alison Morgan ably straddles the spectrum from tenderness and lyrical beauty to raw passion.
Interestingly for a male composer, the words …of the song cycle are ‘spoken’ by women… I am writing in this book opus 88 sets the words of the first millenium Japanese diarist Sei Shōnagon in The Pillow Book. Her book documents her entertaining observations of life in the Japanese court in the service of Empress Teishi. These songs, written for the two voices and instrumental ensemble, opens with A gift of paper, is a gently rocking ballad contrasted by the percussive Japanese idioms, weaving voices and ominous mood of Secret Meeting; the high leaps are punctuated by the onomatopoeia of the Language of women; I see the word ‘storm’ contains a descending figure sung in imitative style which then rises later as ostinato triplets and quavers bounce off each other. It is getting dark is given a spectral feel with the soprano voice opening on a high sustained G# with the mezzo-soprano anchoring a tonally and rhythmically complex texture.” [Shamistha de Soysa, SoundsLikeSydney, 13 October 2018.]
“Schultz wrote I am Writing in this Book in 2011, scored for soprano, mezzo soprano, cello, double bass, percussion, harp and piano. Never one to shy away from interesting texts, he sets snippets from a 10thC diary, The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon. Schultz has selected texts to present Shonagon’s development from early innocence, to her sensual and perceptive middle years, and finally, her deteriorated later life. There is an undeniable Eastern atmosphere conveyed throughout the cycle, often established in the accompaniment. There are also effective and surprising leaps into quirky compositional techniques. The percussion and piano effect of the second song successfully links into the pure minimalism of the third, where the voice itself is asked to be a rhythmic device. The vocal challenges are mainly well achieved, with interesting pitch bends and busy syllabic delivery, though Schultz challenges his soprano with an often tormentingly high tessitura.” [ Jane Edwards, “This moment must be sung. Chamber songs of Andrew Schultz,” LoudMouth, 2 September 2018.]