Silence After A Storm (2015) by Ting-Yi Ma *premiere
Silence after a Storm is a solo piece for the 21-string zheng. It was commissioned by Rice University for Common Practice 21C, a three-day classical, contemporary and cross-cultural event. Since I was very young, I have enjoyed going to the mountain after a storm. Through strong winds and the heavy rain, I felt the power of nature, and it accentuated how small I was in comparison. I cherish the moment after experiencing a storm. The wind and rain that strike my body also clear my mind, and I find it easier to meditate upon lots of things. Silence after a Storm is a kind of meditation depicting the scenery after a storm.
A Thousand Sweeps for pipa (1997) by Wing-Fai Law
The running-style cursive script in Chinese calligraphy emphasizes deft, flowing brushstrokes, with the characters often linked one to another, thus creating a strong sense of ongoing movement. Drawing upon this particular style as his inspiration, the composer seeks to convey musical motion, shapes, contour and tempo through the pipa’s inherent expressive characteristics. A Thousand Sweeps has four sections, each with its own title and associated mood. The first and last sections highlight the dramatic brilliance of the pipa whilst the inner sections focus more on the instrument’s delicate and lyrical qualities. Every section is based on a single idea that grows continuously and builds up to a focal point. The overall feel of each section is one of uninterrupted flow, as if having been accomplished in a single brushstroke.
San-Xiang for dizi, pipa and zheng (1999) by Yip-Fat Richard Tsang
Composed at the request of the Chinese Music Virtuosi (龢鳴樂坊), this exploratory work invokes the traditional instrumental ensemble playing prominent in the ethnic musical practices of many Chinese provinces. The three instruments represent three distinct colors, hence the title San-Xiang (three sounds). The piece is comprised of two main sections. The first half of the work presents a more abstract and modernistic sonic environment in which the instruments interact with each other and exude strong personality. This section sounds distinctively contemporary with ample use of dissonance; it prepares the contemporary audience familiar with such eclectic sonic experiences for a return to our musical past while hinting at the vague sense of tonality to follow. The subsequent section presents a more heterophonic texture that mimics traditional Chinese instrumental ensemble mannerisms—each instrument plays a semi-independent melody, but they all retain a very strong reference to each other, sometimes echoing certain phrases while at times playing in unison. Traditional tonality prevails in the last section as if paying homage to traditional Chinese music.
Whispers of a Gentle Wind (2011) by Kuoping Jia
The title comes from the poem "Mo Zhu Tu” by Banqiao Zheng, and the piece expresses the "natural" essence in personalized language, which is the core of traditional Chinese art. The structure is divided into four parts, mostly adopting a flexible tempo and layout for an effect that is natural and free, showing the unique Chinese characteristics of music improvisation. The whole piece is a total of 127 sub-sections, and each section is a separate aural moment. The process fills space with the continuous production of new sound; therefore, duplication technology is seldom used in this work. Even if repetitive material appears occasionally, it’s a variation or transformation.
In an interview with Sikorski music publishing, Jia said "The piece for four Chinese musical instruments Whispers of a Gentle Wind reflects basically my personal characteristics. I’ve found a processing method of musical sound, which is ever-changing and with open space, showing the aesthetic pursuit of Chinese traditional art, that is the actual and virtual situation of music language, tempo changes, and instantly transformation and flow characteristics of tone color. "
This piece premiered during the Ensemble Contempo Beijing Concert on May 14, 2011, in Beijing Concert Hall.
Yuan-Liu (2009) by Kee-Yong Chong
Yuan-Liu (Origin-Stream) is the second piece of my “Yuan” series. Written for the traditional 37-reed soprano sheng, two pianists and two percussionists, the piece is based on the Chinese philosophy about the five basic elements, or “Wu Xing”—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. In this piece, the system of the five elements is used for describing interactions and harmonic relationships among nature’s phenomena. As such, I interpret ‘tranquility’ and ‘movement’ as an abstract space in this composition, where elements—every point and line, bright and dark, strong and weak, silence and action—transform and influence each other. This work was commissioned and dedicated to shengist Wei Wu and Ensemble Berlin PianoPercussion, who performed the world premiere conducted by Ms. Ya-Ou Xie in the concert "Polaritäten" at the Japanese-German Center Berlin on November 5, 2009.
Trace of Bamboo (2013) by Yu-Chung Tseng
Trace of Bamboo was composed for Chinese bamboo flute and live interactive electronics with Max/MSP. The main idea of the composition is to extend the performing techniques and expressive gamut of the traditional Chinese bamboo flute through the use of electronic technologies, including various real time processing DSP techniques, an interactive music system, and the employment of “extended techniques” of bamboo flute including harmonics, Aeolian sound, tongue-clicking sounds, and more. Through the use of the above-mentioned techniques, the timbres, music gestures, and idioms of bamboo flute were extremely expanded and extended to the extent that the tone quality of the bamboo flute could hardly be recognized and traced at certain points while the music evolved. As a result, a sense of the composition’s surreal beauty may thus be created. The structure of the work reveals certain degrees of influence from general structural features of Chinese music: through-composed with multiple sections, each with different characteristics. The work also shows some influences drawn from traditional performance idioms of shakuhachi and Chinese theatrical music. Trace of Bamboo was commissioned by Taipei City Chinese Orchestra and has been performed at the 2013 ACL Asian Music Festival in Singapore and the 2014 International Electronic Music Festival in Beijing.
Dawn on the Steppe (1997) by Shuya Xu
The idea for this work originates from the folk music of Inner Mongolia in China. The composer imported his own perspective into the traditional pastoral songs, creating a piece based on the particular intervals, timbres and characteristics of this region’s music. The composer developed the music by using “Yin Chang” (a unique way of chanting in Inner Mongolia) in both vocal and orchestral parts which interact with each other. The 5/8 meter penetrates from the longer phrases to the shorter segments in order to convey scenes at dawn as imagined by the composer. The color of the harmonies changes as if the filmy light is getting closer from afar. The instruments are divided into four groups: 1) voice, pipa and zheng; 2) alto flute, oboe and clarinet; 3) violin, viola and cello; and 4) harp, piano and percussion. Netherland New Music Ensemble performed the world premiere, conducted by Shuya Xu in Paradiso Music Hall, Amsterdam, in 1997.
Slow Rain (2012) by Ching-wen Chao
Slow Rain was inspired by a quiet contemplation–a single raindrop slows down its speed 100 times, while it contemplates, perceives and embraces all different breaths of life in nature. The piece was commissioned by the Taipei Chinese Orchestra for a project series “Tribute to Chou Wen-Chung” and was premiered in May 2012.
Septitude by Michael Timpson *world premiere
Septitude is an exploration of ideas absorbed through the various chapters and changes in my life over the years. I created the title “Septitude” not only because the work is for a septet, but also since the root “sept” also means “family” in Celtic. The work is firstly influenced by my research and composition for various Chinese instruments in the past, but is also dually influenced by my move from the US to Korea in 2010. While Chinese instruments inspired my greater interest in timbre, nuance and gesture, my move to Korea took me out of my American box and helped me see the world, and music, in a more international way. Along with being influenced by, and working with, Korean instruments (which are starkly different from Chinese instruments), the contemporary (and also pop) music scene in Seoul looks at Western music in more of a comprehensive and composite way than I knew in the US. While this work is really not “Asian” in any way, it was inspired by the many values and organic qualities of Asian music that have existed for centuries and that are in contrast to the West.
Landscape IV by Lei Liang *world premiere
Having been interested in Mahayana Buddhism for a number of years, I went to a Buddhist monastery in upstate New York to study meditation in 1999. One evening, while walking alone by the side of the lake, I caught the sight of a “V” shape floating and extending on the surface of the water. It was a beaver taking a swim under the moon. This image gave me insight into my relationship with silence: underneath the music is a profoundly deep silence upon which I seek to inscribe my signature through sound. It inspired me to compose a number of works.
* Common Practice 21C Festival Commission