About this Recording
8.579011 - JIA, Daqun: Chamber Works, Vol. 2 - Flavour of Bashu / Counterpoint of Times (Ensemble Les Amis Shanghai, Han Quartet)

Flavour of Bashu (1995)
For Two Violins, Piano and Percussion


Flavour of Bashu derives its musical themes from Sichuan opera; ‘Bashu’ is another way of saying ‘Sichuan’, a province in the South West of China. For the most part, the music of Sichuan Opera is full of pitch indeterminacy and rhythmic uncertainty, with astringent harmonies lending a distinctive piquancy. In addition, Daqun Jia has incorporated elements from other traditional Chinese arts: theatre music, costume, masks, movement, and even calligraphy and painting.

Each of the three movements has a subtitle. The most immediately recognisable feature of the first movement, High Pitched Tune, is that it has no accompanying instrumental music. Rather, the two violins take the ‘solo voice’ line and play alongside percussion and sporadic vocal accompaniment from behind a curtain. Occasionally the two violins are used in percussive ways.

The second movement is called Veins in Rock. The Sichuan province is hilly, with rocky mountains, particularly around the Three Gorges area where one can find many unusual and mountainous rocky outcrops, ranging in character from the majestic to the delicate. This movement is built around the musical form of a Scherzo, and employs piano and metallic percussion instruments to illustrate the strength of the mountains, and the violins to depict the changes in the mountains’ structure: from vertical, to horizontal, to slanting.

Masks, the third movement, is based on the different types of facial makeup in Chinese Opera. These differing masks are recognised for their artistic merit the world over. Four different types of facial makeup are depicted: Sheng (man), Dan (lady), Jing (General) and Chou (clown).

This work was named Chinese Classical Music Composition of the Twentieth Century by the Chinese government.

Counterpoint of Times (1989)

A chamber concerto composed specifically for two flutes (one doubling piccolo), one oboe (doubling English horn), two clarinets (one doubling bass clarinet), one bassoon and one French horn, Counterpoint of Times reveals a highly precise control of both time and rhythm. This temporal precision is evident in both the work’s macro-structure (the timings and structure of the whole work, and the structure of each movement) and the micro-structure (the presentation of time sequences within sequences). The work relies on four types of serial sequence: the Fibonacci sequence; the two sequences from which the Fibonacci sequence derives, the Lucas sequence and Evangelists’ sequence; and a combination of the aforementioned three, the Generalised sequence. These four sequences have two main features:

1. From the third number of a serial sequence on, every number is equal to the combination of the preceding two numbers.

2. From the third number on, the percentage values between each number are all very close to the Golden Section Ratio. The Golden Section ration is a concept found often in both mathematics and art, and can be found when a line is divided into two parts so that the whole length divided by the long part is also equal to the long part divided by the short part. It is a ratio considered particularly pleasing to the eye when used in e.g. architecture, and to the ear when used in music.

Therefore, it appeared logical to construct the work using only the numbers found within these four sequences, and to employ the plus and minus contrasts from the Golden Section Ratio.

String Quartet (1988)

The composer wrote this work as a medium to express the feelings and to communicate a wider understanding of Chinese spirits and culture. The pitch material was drawn from symbolic folk tunes (Suona Music comes from the Yellow River, Boat Chant depicts the Yangtze River and the Temple Music derives from the Wutai Mountains.) In addition to the folk music, three different four-note pitch class sets—each with close interval relationships to the folk themes—are utilised. A unanimity is achieved, therefore, through the medium of tune and sound. The composer also explores various types of performing techniques and the scoring describes in meticulous detail the contours of every musical event as they develop, connect and transform. In this way the expressive capability of the string quartet medium is enriched.

This work was awarded the 12th IRINO Prize for Chamber Music in Tokyo, Japan, in 1991.

The Prospect of Coloured Desert (2000)

For Violin, Cello, Sheng, Pipa and Percussion

Commissioned by the Silk Road Project in 2000, The Prospect of Coloured Desert is a work in one movement. It is a musical representation of the following poems:

West of the Desert

Intermittently appearing and then vanishing, the tiny figures of camels are revealed through the constant sandswirled wind. Disappearing after an instant, a little footprint is left behind amidst the echoes of the tolling bells from the ship of the desert.

The Silk Road

The commercial intercourse channels of millennia were created through tenacity. The cultural communications of an aeon comprise a symphony of souls.

Booklet text compiled from material supplied by the composer

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