Spring Breeze Program
- Intermission -
永恆之花 by Alan Lau
Both Eternal Flowers and Wind Entering Through the Pines are part of the Future in Past II project, aimed at exploring the relationships between music and various natural phenomena (e.g. fractal geometry), technology, and cognitive domains including language and text.
Through the use of compositional techniques such as polyrhythm, micro-polyphony, heterophony, and prolation, the current version creates dialogues not only between acoustic instruments and the electronic soundscape, but also between East and West, and tradition vs. innovation.
The 3-1-2 rhythmic motive is inspired by (and therefore a variation of) Meihua Cao which follows; see future-in-past-ii.blogspot.com for further information regarding Future in Past II and the accompanying fractal animation designed by computer engineer Peter Lin.
Sentiment of the Plum Blossoms
梅花操 Traditional (Excerpt)
Nanyin 南音 (“southern sound”) music from the Fujian 福建 province (also known as nanguan 南管 or “southern pipe” in Taiwan) represents one of the oldest forms of Chinese music that is still performed today.
The piece contains elements dating from the Ming dynasty (14th to 15th century) or even earlier eras as evidenced by the special southern-style pipa 琵琶 that is held in an antiquated horizontal manner (as opposed to the modern vertical fashion).
Presented here is a two-minute excerpt from the opening of one of the most famous (20-minute-long) instrumental suites, featuring intricate interactions between the various instruments, with the pipa serving as the lead instrument (a horizontal di 笛 flute is used in lieu of the typical vertical dongxiao 洞簫, and a fourth instrument, the three-string sanxian 三弦 lute is not included in this particular performance).
Nanyin/nanguan music also serves as an important inspiration for Michael O’Neill’s piece in today’s program.
Wind Entering Through the Pines
風入松 by Alan Lau
In this piece, attempts were made to adopt the elaborate compositional process used in the creation of traditional Kunqu 崑曲 opera arias.
First, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 8 (Music to Hear, Why Hear’st Thou Music Sadly?) was translated into classical Chinese based on the tone and rhyme schemes of the Feng Ru Song 風入松 template used for poetry writing.
A melody was then composed according to the tonal nature of the text as well as the musical features typical of the vocal Feng Ru Song aria.
The musical notations were subsequently interpreted and performed by the renowned Kunqu opera singer, Rui Chen 陳睿 from Nanjing, China, who also played the traditional qudi 曲笛 flute in the recording.
One additional step involves the electroacoustic manipulation of Rui’s recording in order to create an echoing effect to accompany Mr. Sun’s live performance.
Three Variations of the Plum Blossom
The "Flower Trilogy" (which also includes Eternal Flowers and Meihua Cao) concludes with a pipa solo, which is said to be arranged from a famous ensemble piece from the Jiangnan “silk and bamboo” repertoire by musician Baochen Xia 夏寶琛.
It was passed on to Xia’s disciple, revered musician Pui-yuen Lui 呂培原 prior to the 1950s. Together, pieces #2, #3 and #4 offer a brief sample of some of the notable musical genres during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Horse Riding in the Spring Countryside
春郊試馬 by Chen Deju, arr. by Jirong Huang
A lively piece about the arrival of spring written by the Cantonese composer Deju Chen 陳德鉅 in 1954. This is the same year that Stravinsky wrote, In Memoriam Dylan Thomas, and Elvis Presley had his very first studio recording session.
The piece contains various elements that incorporate Western harmony and the use of syncopated rhythms. This reflects the spirit of exploration and innovation in Cantonese music of the period, while at the same time retaining a quintessentially Cantonese voice.
This performance features an arrangement written by our artistic director Jirong Huang for the Vancouver Chinese Music Ensemble.
Turkish Rug for a Log Cabin near Quanzhou
by Michael O’Neill
When my CD collection was stolen, I was able to replace all but three treasured ones - by Morton Feldman, La Monte Young, and Tsai Hsiao-Yüeh. While trying to find a positive aspect to an infuriating situation, I imagined the three musicians forming an ensemble and playing music that had elements of each of them.
The resulting piece is my effort to combine some harmonic and melodic fragments of Feldman, the droning of Young, and some essence of
The title was derived by naming one thing that is/was important in each of the musicians' lives. Morton Feldman was passionate about the intricate patterns of Turkish rugs. La Monte Young was born and raised (and listened to the whistling wind) in a log cabin in Idaho. Quanzhou, a township in the Province of Fujian in southern China, is important in the development of the Nankuan tradition, the style of music in which Tsai Hsiao-Yüeh is an expert.
The piece uses the lyrics, in an English translation, to the song 'Wind in the Sycamores'—the first track on Tsai Hsiao-Yüeh's recording.
Here is a synopsis:
The beautiful Yingying has come with her mother to a monastery to have masses read in memory of her deceased father. There she meets a young bachelor. Their secret love is discovered, and they are allowed to marry, on the condition that the young man succeeds first at the imperial examinations. Yingying stays home alone, waiting for his return. Hearing the wind in the sycamores stirs up unsettled feelings that her fiancée, who is late in returning from his examinations, has abandoned her. She is convinced that he is unfaithful and behaving in a 'villainous' way.
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983)
by Ryuichi Sakamoto (1952-2023)
A tribute to the late Japanese composer who had been instrumental in bridging the East and the West in music, and also in connecting various musical genres, from traditional Asian and Western classical to jazz, pop, and electronic music.
He inspired generations of musicians around the world. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of his most famous composition, written for Nagisa Ōshima’s film of the same name, and features Sakamoto himself as one of the lead actors along with David Bowie.
Xinjiang Dance Music
An arrangement of rhythmic folk melodies from the Xinjiang province in northwestern China depicting a lively and festive atmosphere of songs and dances – the fact that several of the instruments featured in this performance, including the pipa lute and two-string erhu 二胡 fiddle are of Central Asian or Middle Eastern origin is but a reminder of the interconnectedness between musical cultures along the ancient Silk Road.
Battling the Typhoon
戰颱風 by Changyuan Wang
Written by the Shanghainese female composer and renowned guzheng player Changyuan Wang 王昌元, this guzheng solo depicts the composer’s personal experience while studying at the Shanghai Music Conservatory.
During this time, she witnessed a scene of dock workers fiercely guarding their work against an incoming storm. This guzheng solo depicts vivid dark clouds gathering in the sky as furious winds sweep across the land.
The workers remain high in spirit with no fear of hardship and eventually triumph over the storm.
Three Pieces for Dizi
By Yong Sun
Bamboo Flute Rhyme from the Yangzi region of China
The lower reaches of the Yangzi River are rich and filled with beautiful sceneries. The music is often in the lower register and is played with larger flutes, in which the membrane on the flute is slightly loose in order to keep the tone reedy and rich.
The melody expresses a cheerful, peaceful, and enchanting feeling.
On the Mongolian Grassland
This dizi 笛子 (bamboo flute) piece depicts Mongolian herdsmen singing and riding on horseback, enjoying a good life on the grassland.
The introduction is an imitation of Mongolian throat singing known as khoomei, followed by a lyrical andante.
The final fast section is in rondo form, which is full of joyous emotions and requires some extremely challenging flute techniques.
The eight-measure melodic theme in the slow section of this piece is based on a Shanxi folk song of the same name.
The music describes the hard work and joyous emotions of the Autumn Harvest. The lyrical slow section is written according to folk tradition.
© all images made on Midjourney, AI Art by SCOPO