Hypochondriasis (憂患) : for Chin Solo and Live Electronics (2014)

premiered by Lily Chen, Berkeley New Music Project (Berkeley, CA, USA), May 2014


the New York Times (Review: A Mix of Sounds at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival): “Lily Chen turned gentle strums of the chin, a Chinese zither, into roars in her ‘Hypochondraisis.'”

Cycling ’74(Collective) Artist Focus: SEAMUS 2017 

chin_setting  chin_perform2

Program Note:

This piece is my first experimental work for electronic music. Chin is an ancient Chinese traditional 7-string zither, which is also a very personal instrument due to its soft volume and subtle timbral changes. Since it is not able to make sounds of great volume, amplification becomes an important element and thus creates a new kind of environment, an augmented chin. Such an augmented environment gives me inspiration for the piece. The necessary amplification and the electronic sounds both expand and even exaggerate the original instrumental sounds, which reminds me of the syndrome of the hypochondriasis, a tendency to fear or imagine that one has the illnesses that one does not actually have. The sufferers of this psychological illness normally augment their pain and exaggerate their physical conditions.

In the piece, I pretend to be a hypochondriasis sufferer who exaggerates and distorts the sense as if viewing things under the microscope or doing some ritual. By associating this emotional activity with music, I intend to find an appropriate role that the electronics plays, to build an intimate relationship between acoustics, amplification, and electronics, and to create different scenarios and multiple layers of musical environments.

I want to express my special thanks to Prof. Edmund Campion, who leads me to the world of electronic music and helps me create a good environment for the composition, and to Jeff Lubow, who helps me complete the concert patch and solve the technical issue of this piece. This piece is dedicated to my mother, who had a hard time taking care of my father, a hypochondriasis sufferer. It is also dedicated to some activists in my country Taiwan. To me, they are the hypochondriasis sufferers who have foreseen the crises hidden in the current situation and are fighting hard for the well-being of the country.