Basho (1644-94) was born Matsuo Kinsaku but later changed his name to honor a disciple’s gift: a banana tree rare to Japan, the basho. This tree was replanted all over the islands because Basho constantly wandered – searching for new experiences. He spent his life as a Zen monk and is considered by many to be the greatest poet of Japan. Basho was responsible for revitalizing haiku at a time when the form’s structure had nearly defeated its inspiration. Doho, a disciple of Basho, wrote the following:
“The master said, ‘Learn about the pine tree from a pine tree, and about the bamboo stalk from a bamboo stalk.’ What he meant was that the poet should detach his mind from self...and enter into the object, sharing its delicate life and its feelings. Whereupon a poem forms itself. Description of the object is not enough: unless a poem contains feelings which have come from the object, the object and the poet’s self will be separate things.”
From Basho is divided into three sections, taking their titles from each consecutive line of Basho’s poem as translated by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto:
To the willow—
all hatred, and desire
of your heart.
The composition of this piece was as much choreographic as musical and therefore the images created by the performer’s body in relationship to the harp are as important as the music.