Special Interviews

How Many Miles to Paradise?

Peter Boyer, composer, conductor and scholar is a five-time winner of national music awards. He has written many musical themes for Hollywood movies and is a guest professor of music at Claremont Graduate University. For the concert, he wrote
the music for the Supreme Master Ching Hai's poem "Love Melody IV." He
also conducted the musical dramatic piece, "The Peace Seeker" during
the concert.Music that he had composed for the short film
"Walk the Way of Love," also was performed at the concert.

Excerpt from a video interview with Peter Boyer (PB), conducted by
Katherine Hudson (KH) on November 17, 1998. (Originally In English)

KH. Tell us more about the work that you're doing for the concert.

PB. As a composer, when one is given a piece of poetry to set, then that is a different kind of a process than when one simply writes a piece of instrumental music. If you're writing instrumental music, then you make all the decisions about how long the piece should be, what the form of the piece should be - with a beginning, a middle, an end, etc. When you're setting a poem, every poem has its own rhythm; it has its own structure. You have to, as a composer, respect that rhythm and that structure, and determine what your role will be in terms of creating music. So, I've taken this poetry and tried to find the essence of what it's about, which seemed to be about love and longing and commitment, and trying to reflect that somehow in the music. We'll see if it worked!

KH. You want to share any of the poem?

PB. Sure! It's organized in a quadrangle, a group of four lines, so I organized my music in this sort of four-line group. For example, a recurring theme in the poem is the three-word line, "How many miles?" And this recurs several times. The first time is in the second quadrangle where the poem reads:

How many miles to the West's side; 
How many miles to Paradise;
How many miles to your heart;
How many miles to mine?

So, I have actually taken those three words and made that sort of the theme of the song. That is a recurring motif, and I have that music entered at the beginning, returned in the middle, and returned at the end just sort of to round it out. In the final moments of the song, that actually appears purely musically without the words, and then the singer comes back in for a final time to close it out. The theme is of longing, of wishing to know how long it will be before one is reunited with one's loved one.

KH. Tell us also about conducting Fred Karlin's, "The Peace Seeker."

PB. That's right! Ah, this is going to be quite a large and challenging work to organize. We have a 60-piece orchestra, and sort of in the middle of that 60-piece orchestra, we'll have a folk rock group of four instruments. Now, that in itself, is two different worlds that are being put together in a way that one doesn't normally find. Usually one thinks of a rock group and an orchestra as completely different entities. But in fact, they'll be there as two of the large elements. Then we'll have a Boys choir, the Pasadena Boys choir, which is another element. And of course, you're dealing with children's voices, which is something that is a fairly unique kind of sound.

Fred Karlin, who is also a world-class jazz trumpet player and flugelhorn player, has written himself some spot to play, which is why he didn't want to conduct - can't conduct and play at the same time. And then, we have a female vocalist to accompany the folk rock group, and also three actors who will do recitation of poetry as well. So, this will be a big job to coordinate.

KH. And then, you also worked on the introductory video for the Supreme Master Ching Hai?

PB. That's correct! In this case, it's a seven-and-a-half-minute documentary highlighting Her various achievements and background. My job was to compose music that reflected these various aspects of Her character. It will be quite a mixed bag. I can't think of any other event where so many different kinds of diverse music will be together on the stage. I think that it reflects the title of "One World" very well.

KH. How do you feel working with the Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association?

PB. Well, they're certainly a very dedicated bunch of people (smiling!) I don't think they sleep very much. I think they mostly work around the clock. And it's certainly been, I think, a warmer kind of feeling than you get from just working for your average client. It's been very pleasurable!

Words from the Musicians' Hearts A Beautiful Parable
There is So Much Music in the Words of the Poems The Noblest Ideal
How Many Miles to Paradise? This Song Really Sings Itself