Summer Snail

“O summer snail you climb but slowly, slowly to the top of Fuji”

These are the opening lines for Summer Snail. They are from a haiku, written by Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa somewhere between the 18th and 19th century. They are the first step in a path full of ramifications, alternative routes leading to textual instructions, graphic notation and new haiku - all the objects of improvisation, of creative engagement to a transient musical context.

The score resembles a board game. A computer network connects two dislocated ensembles. Each of them moves over its individual map, according to cues that lie beyond choice or will - at the performance taking place at the other side, and projecting itself into the local acoustic space.

Sam Hamill says “a great haiku presents - through imagery drawn from intensely careful observation - a web of associated ideas (rensó) requiring an active mind on the part of the listener”. An active mind not only to interpret, but to experience the haiku in its completeness, in its inalienable essence - the essence of a whole universe, contained in a glimpse. Here this experience is the responsibility of the improvisors, whose task is to listen, react, interact and cooperate at every instant.

Along the score, some possible trajectories. One may think of the little snail in its unattainable, yet resolute pursuit for the highest point of Japan. The admirable exercise of patience and tenacity. One may as well forget the reasoning, ignore causes and consequences, and just observe life on its course. Every new haiku is a chance to stop and experience.


Premiere on 14th September 2010, as a part of EIMAS - International Meeting of Music and Sonic Arts, in Juiz de Fora, Brazil.

Further performances on 6th June 2011 and 22th March 2012 in network concerts between SARC (Belfast) and USP (São Paulo), and on 27th April 2012 in Uberlândia (Brazil) as a part of National Symposium of Contemporary Music Improvisation.

Music by Felipe Hickmann
Art by Ivana Lemos
Programming by Eduardo Patrício

The performance below took place between Belfast and São Paulo on 22th March 2012.

In Belfast:
Paul Wilson (trombone)
Robert Casey (piano)
In São Paulo:
Rogério Costa (saxophone)
Miguel Antar (contrabass)

Summer Snail 2012 from Felipe Hickmann on Vimeo.