“A poet does not deserve the title of poet as long as he speaks of his few personal feelings; however, as soon as he manages to make the world his own, and express it, then he is a poet.” (J.W. Goethe*). It is truly a great honor for me, and a great responsibility, to create music for, or rather, to find the sound hidden within the words of this beautiful poem by Daisaku Ikeda. In addition to being a great contemporary Japanese poet, writer and photographer, Ikeda is also the President of Soka Gakkai International (Soka Gakkai in Japanese means “the association for the creation of value”), the Japanese Buddhist institute that protects and divulges the correct Buddhist teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.
Ever since I started practicing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism in 1999, the “power of ego,” which had accompanied me up to that point (the composers’ ego, moreover, is generally known to be an ugly beast) has gradually begun to crack, revealing greater spaces, both human and creative. The choice of this poem is no accident. It is simultaneously a tribute to my life mentor, and a stimulus to deepen his precious teaching. I feel very close to this poem, written by Ikeda in his youth, because it stigmatizes in a precise and synthetic way, the deep tension towards the radical self-reformation of thinking, words and actions dominated by the world of illusions in which everyone, some more than others, consciously live in. “I emerge from the earth” (the closing line of this short poem) I think, serves precisely to indicate the endeavor and promise of the Buddhist philosophy and religion, that is, happiness in this world, that freely paraphrasing Italo Calvino and his American Lessons, is not “superficiality” but rather “lightness,” understood as the result of a constant struggle with one’s own darkness to be shared with others.
Therefore, I would like to deeply thank Daisaku Ikeda for allowing me to do this work, festival director Raphael De Vivo for commissioning it, and the great Shigeko Hata for patiently creating it with me.
“When his development has reached a certain stage, it is advantageous for him to lose himself in a larger whole, learn to live for others, and forget himself in dutiful activities for others. Only then will he come to know himself.” J.W. Goethe from “Wilhelm Meister”*
*These two quotes by Goethe are from “Goethe The Man,” a lesson held at the Soka University in Tokyo by Ikeda