plain of China, comprising the middle and lower reaches of the Huanghe (Yeilow)
River, was the cradle of Chinese civilisation. The river flows over five
thousand miles, carrying with it the sights and sounds along its banks, the
legends of its people, the rise and fall of dynasties, the joys and
tribulations of generations. The river itself has been the source of inspiration
for countless poets and musicians, including the present composer, drawn to combine
music and the sounds of Chinese instruments in an expression of the influence
of the river as well as of the depth and diversity of Chinese culture.
Dance of Joy (Tibetan Dance)
The Yellow River has its source deep in the mountains of Qinghai Province,
home of the Tibetans. Here the beauty and vigour of their dances are depicted,
beginning with the soft murmur of flowing streams and the sounds of nature,
the chirping of birds and an evocation of a pastoral scene. The bamboo flute,
the plucked sanxian and the bowed er-hu in turn carry the melody.
the rhythm changes, moving into the lively rhythm of the boisterous Tibetan dance.
Moon Over the Frontier
The title Moon over the Frontier suggests a poem by the Tang Dynasty poet
Li Bai (Li Po) in which he expresses the loneliness of soldiers guarding the
border. The feeling is not one of melancholy but rather of stoical endurance.
The piece is in three sections.
section begins slowly, using the pentatonic scale. By means of the computer the
composer was able to express himself freely, creating a sense of vast
spaciousness. The section ends with a sigh at the inevitability of parting from
loved ones. In the second section the melody is first carried by the saxophone,
followed by the sound made by blowing over the tops of bottles, developing the
melody further. The tune recalls the music of Northern China. The third section
is a recapitulation of the first. The unusual combination of computer music with
the sound of traditional Chinese musical instruments suggests a completely new approach.
Visit to Jiangzhou
Visit to Jiangzhou is derived from a folk-song popular in the northern part
of Shaanxi as well as in Sanxi and is commonly known as A Carrying Pole. The
itinerant pedlar uses a carrying pole over his shoulders to carry his wares
from one place to the next. This is a lively tune, expressing the cheerful mood
of pedlars as they travel. There is a lively duet between the bowed banhu and
the plucked sanxian, full of warmth and humour.
Lullaby is a gentle melody, inspired by a North-Eastern Chinese folk-song,
bringing out the beauty of idyllic, warm summer nights. The constant pulse that
beats throughout the piece has all the air of a lullaby, bringing with it pleasing
memories of childhood.
Happiness When the Sun Shines
The province of Sichuan is constantly shrouded in mist, through which the
sun penetrates but rarely. Needless to say, people are overjoyed when the sun
appears. Using the melody of a Sichuan folk-song, the composer created a vision
of clear, mumuring streams, lush green hills, birds singing and flowers blooming
in abundance. The clear, bright timbre of the piccolo shows the happiness of
the people, and the playing of the woodwind suggests children sporting in the
sun, an image that remains long after the last note has died away.
Thoughts or Love
Love is a perennial theme for artists and musicians. In Chinese tradition,
the profession of love is expressed with subtle diffidence, although the feelings
themselves were intense and unequivocal. In earlier days, young lovers are inevitably
parted, their love unrecognised in a land where marriage was rather an alliance
between families than the union of two people deeply in love. Such stories of
unfulfilled love abound in Chinese folklore.
thematic material from the bantou songs of Henan, the melody of Thoughts of
simple and slow, with an underlying feeling of sadness. The composer uses the
plucked Chinese horizontal lute, the guzheng, as the leading instrument,
answered by the flute. The music is gentle and loving, like a young man sending
a message of love to his beloved, with the moon as his messenger. The rich tone
of the woodwind and the plaintive sounds of the voice add to the sombre feeling
of the piece, a mood of detachment expressed in the frequent appearance of the
subdominant as a basis for the melody. The emotions of the lovers are further developed
by the use of various techniques of playing the guzheng, providing music tinged
with sentiments of melancholy and resignation.
There are many versions of the well known love-song. The Embroidered Purse,
which is found in various forms in all the provinces of the central plains,
Henan, Sanxi, Shandong, Sichuan, Yunnan and elsewhere. The composer has here
made use of the Yunnan varsion, employing the bamboo flute and the plucked guzheng
as the principal instruments. An embroiderad purse is the symbol of a girl's
pledge of love to her beloved. Her feelings as she embroiders the purse are
Philosophers have long pondered the meaning of life. Buddhism teaches that
only through deep meditation can one even begin to understand the whole purpose
of living. In Meditation the composer uses his artistic licence to create a
unique avant-garde composition, with no melody but marked by percussion throughout.
In spite of this the composer's ideas emerge as clearly as if there were a lyrical
quality to the music.
The Yellow River
The Huanghe River was at the heart of more than five thousand years of Chinese
composer shows how the river is linked to the people and their lives. The work
is divided into four movements.
Fighting the Waves
The first part of the work shows the fury of the river as it churns its
way through the plains. Above the roar of the waters can be heard the hoarse
cries of the fishermen fighting the whirling current.
The second movement brings a complete change. Here the strong rhythmic beat
of Western rock music is used to show the indomitable spirit of the people who
have to do daily battle against the river. After this comes the gentler sound
of trickling streams, as the fury of the river seems to abate.
Cuihua is a name commonly found among village girls of northern Shaanxi.
The gentle melody tells of lovers and their pursuit of happiness. It is based
on a beautiful Shaanxi folk-song.
Confronting the River
The fourth section serves as a recapitulation of the first. Once again the
river is shown in its full glory, an unstoppable force. Like the river, the
inhabitants of its banks are just as resolute and determined.