Armistice Day 終戦記念日



At 11:00 am on 11 November 1918 the armistice that ended World War I came into effect. This year there are many events taking place to mark the centenary of the “war to end all wars”. The music I will be listening to around the time of the anniversary is Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, which for me is quite simply the greatest piece about war in the classical repertoire, along with Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7, “Leningrad”.

I had the enormous privilege of being able to sing in the War Requiem in my final year at university as a member of the Cambridge University Musical Society (CUMS) chorus. Even better, the performance was at the Royal Albert Hall, where I had been a concert-goer on so many occasions as a big fan of the Proms. It was one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences I will never forget. Looking back on it now, it was an early example of the overlap between my music and my academic interests. As a history undergraduate at Cambridge I had taken a term-long course on World War I history – supervised by Dr Jay Winter, another enormous privilege – and visited the battlefields in France, including the Historial de la Grande Guerre (Museum of the Great War) in Péronne. By the time I sang in the War Requiem, therefore, I had spent much time reading about the conflict. Getting to know Britten’s music and Wilfred Owen’s poetry in this context were formative experiences.

Eighteen years later in 2012 I visited the University of Warwick on academic business. I took the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to a place that I really should have visited many years before, Coventry Cathedral, which was destroyed during a German air raid and is now a moving monument to the horrors of war. Britten’s War Requiem was first performed in 1962 at the consecration of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral. Once again, my musical and academic paths crossed as I stood in a place which is equally important to both. The personal significance of this place was heightened further by the presence of a statue commemorating the victims of Hiroshima (see the photo above). When I sang in Britten’s War Requiem as a student I had no idea my life would become so inextricably linked to Japan. But as I stood by that statue in the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral, many key parts of my life – war memories, music, Japan, Britain – all came together in one moment.

There are many pieces and composers that have acted as models for my music, but Britten’s War Requiem is right up there as one of the pieces that has influenced me most. In my own Requiem (2000), the Dies Irae and unaccompanied Amens are moments of homage to Britten. I thought about Britten’s War Requiem again in 2016 as I wrote A Christmas Carol. In this piece, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes a modern-day Scrooge back to the trenches of World War I and the Christmas truce of 1914. The words and music are reworked from famous Christmas carols, so “In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan” becomes “In the bleak midwinter, wounded men did moan”, and so on. But I also wanted to include something akin to what was for me the most moving moment of the War Requiem.

Towards the end of the War Requiem, the baritone solo sings, “I am the enemy you killed, my friend”, from the poem Strange Meeting by Wilfred Owen. It is a stunning passage of poetry/music and in those few words Owen gets right to the heart of warfare. So much commemorative attention is given to “the fallen” or those who made “the ultimate sacrifice”, but wars are really about making sure that the enemy cannot bear the level of “ultimate sacrifice” you have inflicted on them. Furthermore, while some may even enjoy the exhilaration or glory of combat, for many individual soldiers the personal price of inflicting the “ultimate sacrifice” on someone else may be extremely high. The psychological traumas of war’s survivors are so easily forgotten in public eulogies to “the fallen”. Hence, the last stanza of The Ghost of Christmas Past (from the Christina Rossetti original, “Yet what I can I give Him, — Give my heart.”) is:

What I can I must do,
Take his life!

For my research I once interviewed a Japanese soldier haunted over sixty years later by the memory of bayonetting to death a woman in a Chinese village on the orders of his commanding officer. Maybe the stanza was inspired by him, or perhaps by Britten, or by Owen, or perhaps just my general understanding of war having researched its effects for almost two decades. Every year as we pause to remember those who died for their country in war, it is worth remembering what it means to kill for one’s country, too.

6 November 2018.



私は、大学最後の年に、Cambridge University Musical Society(ケンブリッジ大学音楽協会)の合唱メンバーとして「戦争レクイエム」を歌う、という非常に栄誉ある経験をしました。この経験がさらに特別だったのは、これがロイヤル・アルバート・ホールでの演奏だったことです。このホールで開かれるプロムナード・コンサートの大ファンだったので、足繁く通っていたからです。正に「一生に一度の経験」であり、生涯の思い出となりました。振り返ってみると、これは私の音楽と学問に対する関心が交わった初期の例といえます。歴史を学ぶ学部生の頃、私は一学期に亘る第一次世界大戦についての講義を受講していました(指導教員だったジェイ・ウィンター先生の下で学べたことも素晴らしい経験でした)。フランスまで赴き、戦場跡地や、ペロンヌにあるHistorial de la Grande Guerre(大戦歴史博物館)といった場所も訪れました。「戦争レクイエム」を歌う頃までには、多くの時間を費やして文献を読み、この戦争についての理解を深めることができました。ブリテンの音楽と、ウィルフレッド・オーウェンによる戦争詩を知ることは、私の原体験となったと言えます。


私が作曲を行う上でモデルとした作品や作曲者はたくさん挙げられますが、ブリテンの「戦争レクイエム」は私に最も影響を与えた作品のひとつです。私が手がけた「レクイエム」(2000年)の中で、Dies Irae(ディエス・イレ、ラテン語で「怒りの日」を表す言葉)と独唱のアーメンは、ブリテンへのオマージュです。2016年に「クリスマス・キャロル」を書く際には、ブリテンの「戦争レクイエム」にも思いを馳せました。私の作品では、「過去のクリスマスの幽霊」が、現代版スクルージを第一次大戦下の塹壕と1914年のクリスマス休戦の場に連れ戻します。歌詞と音楽は、有名なクリスマス聖歌をアレンジしました。例えば「寒々とした真冬のさなか、凍てつく風がうめき声をたてる」をアレンジして、「寒々とした真冬のさなか、傷ついた男たちがうめき声をたてる」としています。この他にも、「戦争レクイエム」で私が得た感動を、自分の作品にも反映させたいと考えていました。

「戦争レクイエム」の終盤にかけて、バリトンのソロが、ウィルフレッド・オーウェンによる詩Strange Meeting(奇妙な出会い)を引用し、「友よ、私はお前が殺した敵なのだ」と歌います。見事な詩と音楽であり、この短い言葉によってオーウェンは戦争の核心を突いています。「戦没者」や「尊い犠牲」を払った人々に対して、非常に多くの追悼の意が表されていますが、実のところ戦争は、敵に耐え難いほどの「尊い犠牲」を負わせることを目的としています。また、戦いの高揚感や勝利を楽しむ人もいるかもしれませんが、兵士個人の立場から考えてみると、誰かに「尊い犠牲」を負わせることに払う代償ははかりしれない場合があります。戦争を生き抜いた兵士の精神的なトラウマは、「戦没者」を追悼する世間を前にするとき、あまりにもたやすく忘れ去られてしまいます。このことから、私は「過去のクリスマスの幽霊」の最後のスタンザを次のように書き上げました(クリスティーナ・ロセッティのオリジナル「私にできることを差し上げます。私の心を差し上げます。」に基づいています)。

What I can I must do,
Take his life!