The landscape of Cloud
Cloud is an aerosol of flowing gas and dust, which surrounds and protects the tiny earth in the vast cosmic sky. It is dynamic and diversified. Not only reflecting existing splendid pictures known to the human beings, but also inspiring our boundless imaginations in the future. The landscape of cloud, or the cloud with landscape is a musical work full of sounds of clouds and feelings of the landscape; moreover, the composer wants to express his own emotions over the landscape of cloud.
This work composed of three movements – Floating Cloud, Voice of Mountain and Affection on Water. The composer uses skills as serial-music, pitch-class set, timbre texture and multi-structure to show his multidimensional awareness of dynamic status, and expresses his own feelings by abstracting the nature.
Fallingwater (2016) for string quartet is a musical tribute to the visionary American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959). The inspiration to compose my string quartet came to me when I visited Taliesin, the 600-acre estate that Wright began to build in 1911, nestled into the rolling hills of Wisconsin. For over 40 years, Taliesin was his primary residence, studio, sanctuary, farm, school of architecture, and artistic statement to the world. In the main living hall, his third wife organized soirees for family, apprentices and renowned guests. As I stood in the center of this magnificent space, I noticed a large circular music stand made of wood, designed by Wright himself, with four sides for use by string quartets. I began to hear a composition in four movements, as an emotional, spiritual, and musical exploration of Wright’s aesthetic of “organic architecture.”
Everything flows, nothing is stationary
Inspired by the idea of flow, of fluid movement and the reality of constant change, the three parts of Stream reflect thinking about aspects of movement and human consciousness of movement. This includes movement of the human body, of natural elements like air and water, but also the flow created by machines and of digital data. We may be able to constrain time and change for a little while, using technology or with memory, or we may retain connections to past things through remembered song. ‘Run’ suggests the way rapid physical movement can spill across clock time and mechanical measurements. ‘Hold’ presents variations on a forgotten song; the simple melody gradually evolves through repetition. ‘Drive’ balances unyielding rhythmic repetition with outbursts of melody. All three are motivated by aspects of flow and movement as we humans experience it.
The Void Between Heartbeats, written for string quartet and digital effects, is inspired by the idea of the emptiness and stillness between one beat of the heart and the next. The moment when the arrow should be released; the trigger squeezed, and where the self is not. It is written as a single movement but with three distinct sections. The slow, spacious opening explores themes of emptiness and the abyss before transitioning into a chorale like theme, somewhat like a prayer. The third section is more rhythmic, becoming more aggressive and anxious before returning to the prayer theme. The effects that have been used in this piece are reverb, delay, harmonizer and distortion.
This work was composed at a time when the Middle Eastern refugee crisis was at its height in 2016-17. A vast chunk of humanity was forced to flee their homes and face further perils in the quest for safety and freedom. Perhaps for the first time I found it almost impossible to compose, living in a world of such unprecedented carnage and terror. Mesmerized by the extreme state of the real world, it must seem that all art must fail. What music could I possibly write in response to this? Does poetry become silent after a holocaust?
I made no attempt to compose a comment, let alone a requiem, to the suffering and loss. But three things came together by sheer happenstance. First, the news: we were almost in the midst of a world war, with conflagrations in many places igniting tragedy. “Everything is burning” the Buddha might say. Then there was the second element: of bird music, calls and songs specifically of the birds of New Zealand, a parallel world of beauty and innocence, a world of nature, an unchanging world that reminds us of transcendent possibilities. And finally there was the Pali Canon, the ancient discourses of the Buddha: vast, insightful, deep, imbued with loving-kindness. I read these assiduously, as the string music gathered its energy amidst the surrounding tragedy. In this co-habitation of circumstance, the three things rubbed shoulders together; I can offer no causality of creative process to explain anything. This is just the way the music came together, and I know nowt of what it speaks.