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C0 note (16,35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

D0 note (18.35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

C0 note (16,35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

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A0 note (27.50 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

Chan, Kai-young: Times of Prospering and Perishing 

 

 

Basic information

  • Title: 
    Times of Prospering and Perishing
  • Composer: 
  • Duration (in minutes): 
    13
  • Year of composition: 
    2018
  • First performance (year): 
    2018
  • First performance (venue): 
    Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall
  • First performance (performers): 
    Hong Kong Sinfonietta
  • Conductor: 
    Obligatory
 

Notes

  • Program notes: 

    Times of Prospering and Perishing

    The idea of this work came from an image of the century-old Bayan trees on Bonham Road – not of the painful-looking barren stumps that remained when the quartet was axed in 2015, but of the silent growth of sprouts and small branches that have gradually crowned the stumps over the past years. How the forces of nature silently respond to the brutal external disturbance was a moving spark of inspiration, and the idea grew to an exploration of prospering and perishing phenomena in our surroundings. This piece addresses the seeming inevitability of all things that started out pure, simple, and beautiful ending up in chaos, mayhem, and destruction; but there are also the inklings and seedlings of survival and regeneration reaching out of the stumps that could potentially prosper into a renewed state of magnificence.

    In this piece, there are contrasting pairs of thematic, motivic, and harmonic materials that correspond to the conflicting forces of prospering and perishing. Materials of “prospering” are derived from the Cantonese melodic contour of Tang Dynasty poet Bai Juyi’s Farewells on Grassland; materials of “perishing” are derived from the Cantonese melodic contour of Yuan dynasty poet Ma Zhiyuan’s Autumn Meditation.

    The piece wakes up calmly with ambiguous harmonies derived from “prospering” materials, setting up the piece with non-aligned textures in string harmonics and faint suggestions of the “prospering” motif spread among the orchestra. The theme of “prospering” is first announced by a solo violin, which is then imitated across a growing string sections at different tonalities, decorated by winds; as the clear melodic line grows into chaos through poly-temporal imitation (similar to the phasing technique but with each line playing at a different tempo), the melodies recede into a harmonically static background, making way for a brass chorale based on the ornamented version of the motif. The chorale soon pushes the piece to its first climatic moment, where one can first hear suggestions of the “perishing motif” (a descending major seventh interval), despite still being in the realm of the prospering language.

    The climax is forcefully overtaken by a dissonant superimposition of the “prospering” chords and transitioned to an unfolding canvas of multi-colored brasses, with each of their pitches forming the beginning part of the “perishing” theme. At this moment, remnants of the “prospering” materials are still to be found in the background as slowly descending chords played by the violas and cellos. The “perishing” theme completely takes over when the strings once again perform a different form of imitative counterpoint, which gradually builds up to an emotionally-charged tutti section that includes the only complete statement of the perishing theme. (The melody inspired by Autumn Meditation in its entirety). After the climactic statement of the theme, the opening textures return with varied harmonies – a mixture of the “prospering” and “perishing” materials. Against a familiar pointillistic backdrop of string harmonics, a nostalgic clarinet solo sings a melody integrating both motifs, bringing the music back to a state of calmness and uncertainty.

    Farewells on Grassland (excerpt) by Bai Juyi (772–846)
    The overwhelming grass on the plains
    Flourish and perish each year:
    Never consumed by wildfire
    And ever revived by wind of the spring.

    Autumn Meditation by Ma Zhiyuan (1250–1321)
    Wilted vines, ancient trees, crows cawing at dusk
    Adorn a narrow bridge, a flowing stream, and homesteads about.
    On an ancient road, in westerly wind, stands a gaunt horse.
    The setting sun in the west
    Leaves behind the heart-wrenched at the end of the world.

 

Instruments

Total number of musicians: 
68
Musicians1st player2nd player
Flute
2
Piccolo
C
Oboe
2
Oboe
Oboe
Clarinet
2
B-flat
B-flat
Bassoon
2
Bassoon
Bassoon
Horn (F)
4
Trumpet
2
B-flat
B-flat
Trombone
2
Alto
Alto
MusiciansInstruments
Percussion
2
Crotales
Glockenspiel
Vibraphone (C3)
Timpani
Bass Drum
Tamtam
Other
Musicians1st player2nd player
Violin
26
Viola
10
Cello
8
Double Bass
6
5-string
5-string

 

 

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