Microcosmos (小宇宙) : for a Percussionist (2010)

commissioned and premiered by Shih-San Wu 吳思珊, Jun. 2010, Taipei, Taiwan

Program Note:

This musical piece is inspired by Microcosmos: 100 Modern Haiku, a book of poetry by Chen Li (a contemporary poet in Taiwan). Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry, consisting of 17 syllables, in three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively. However, Chen Li adds contemporary interest to the traditional poetic form, attempting to explore new possibilities for modern poetry. In these three-line short poems, the poet conveys an abundance of ideas and stimulates readers’ imagination with refined and concise language. Within the restricted form, every modern haiku in the book is very much like a microcosm rich in tremendous energy.

In this piece, the composer borrows the concept of Microcosmos mentioned above. In musical material, the two elements of “motion” and “motionlessness” dominate the whole piece; in instrumentation, only the timpani and the Zheng (a Chinese plucked zither) are employed. The composer attempts, by using simple and limited material, to explore multi-acoustic effects, exploit new possibilities of music, and create a simple but substantial musical microcosm.

The composer selects three short poems from Chen Li’s Microcosmos as the original concepts of the three sections of this musical piece. She transforms the energy she has felt while reading the poems into material to develop musical motives. The three sections are developed by using two materials in contrast to each other, which can be viewed as a process of the inter-transition and the rise and fall of accumulating musical energy and intensity.

The three haiku are not necessarily or absolutely related to this musical piece, though the inspiration originates from them. The purpose of listing the three poems is to provide the performer and the audience with greater room for imagination and association.

A swift and downward glissando:
someone puts a ladder
against my childhood window.

I wait and long for you:
a turning die in the empty bowl of night
attempting to create the 7th side.

Silent soybean milk: day after day
from my bowl to my body flows
the blank music.
















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