A Leaf Falls After(葉落之後): for orchestra (2016-17)

Program Note:

A Leaf Falls After is inspired by my recent memories of living in Europe. In the fall of 2015, I received the Ladd Prize funded by UC Berkeley and had the great opportunity to live in Paris for ten months. This was my first time in Paris as well as in Europe; I experienced intimate incidents of fragile beauty that touched me, but also shocking and terrifying ones during my residence there. I was impressed by the most clear and colorful fall I’d ever seen when autumn leaves fell to the ground, sizzling as if drizzling; I was terrified by the terrorist attack but also touched by the toughness of the Parisians that winter; on a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, I was fascinated to hear twelve bells constantly ringing, intertwining together as a huge chaotic but illusory whirl; I was stunned when visiting the installation ‘Fallen Leaves’ at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, watching thousands of open mouthed steel metal faces on the ground create, when walked on, harshly grating sounds like the victims’ screams.

Inspired by mixed emotions and diverse sounds, this piece traces the journey of a leaf: a solitary leaf falling with loneliness as described in an e. e. cumming’s poem; a light leaf falling with other leaves in autumn; a heavy metal leaf fallen on the ground. However, no matter what vibrations it has undergone during its falling and fallen time, the leaf will eventually be reincarnated into a rising butterfly, flapping its wings to cause a tornado in spring until the next falling comes. Based on such images, I created a constantly flowing process of different kinds of vibrations along with air sounds to represent falling leaves, fallen leaves, and flaps of rising butterflies’ wings. Besides this, metallic sounds/noises either with pure resonances or with intense pressure make up another important element, which is associated with my memories of the ringing bells and the metal “fallen leaves.”

Structurally, there are three large uninterrupted sections with an introduction and a coda, expressing several different scenarios in sequence: a leaf falls (Intro), falling leaves (Section 1), ringing chaos (Section 2), rising butterflies (Section 3), and a leaf falls after (coda). In the intro (a leaf falls), an image of a huge leaf shaped by multiple linear gestures gently emerges from behind the air sounds but then falls abruptly and heavily with metallic noises. Section 1 (falling leaves) reveals a falling/descending process, starting from pitchless noises and air sounds, gradually accumulating more and more, clearer and clearer descending gestures, and then finished by an very intense dark grating phrase, which is a metaphor of the metal “fallen leaves.” Section 2 (ringing chaos) is a long transition between the previous and the following section as well as from purity to chaos, based on the constant bell-like sounds of chimes as drone and fused with other complex sounds and resonances to shape a chaotic dizzy atmosphere. As an inverted image of falling leaves, Section 3 (rising butterflies) mainly focuses on ascending gestures with vibrations and bright timbre scattering and echoing in different parts to draw a picture of the wing flutters of rising butterflies and the fluctuations of the “butterfly effect.” In the coda (a leaf falls after), the gasp-like breath sounds are not just a kind of struggle in a fading decay, but also a hint of rebirth recalling the beginning gestures: the falling leaf turns over a new leaf in the cycle of transmigration.

《葉落之後》一曲源於我在歐洲的生活體驗與記憶。前年秋天,我旅居巴黎十個月,經歷許多難忘場景:我置身最多彩的秋天,橘黃落葉沙沙作響成連綿葉雨;我度過最駭人的冬天,感受到恐怖攻擊後的驚惶與當地人的堅韌。我在倫敦聖保羅教堂前,群鐘交錯鳴響成一座紊亂魔幻的巨大聲音迷陣;我在柏林猶太博物館的裝置藝術「落葉」前,千片金屬臉孔被踩在腳下,尖銳的金屬撞擊彷彿受難者的哭喊。

匯整這些複雜的情緒與聲響,此曲講述一片葉子的歷程:它是e. e. cummings圖像詩中孤獨的落葉,是落葉雨中輕輕飄下的葉子,也是重重落地的金屬葉片。然而無論經歷多少動盪,它終將蛻化成飛昇的蝴蝶,拍動翅膀掀起龍捲風,直到下一次墜落。我試圖以此意象建構以振動聲響與氣聲為主的持續流動的過程,表現葉落與蝶飛的姿態;而帶殘響或噪音的金屬聲響是本曲另一要素,隱喻鐘鳴與金屬碰撞。

結構上,此曲分成有序奏與尾奏的三段。在序奏(葉落),多重聲線從氣聲中浮現匯聚後急遽下降,描繪出第一片葉落;第一段(落葉雨)是一下降過程,始於無音高的氣聲噪音,逐漸堆疊下行音型,再移至低沈擠壓聲響,隱喻金屬落葉。第二段(鳴響的眩亂)在織度上呈現從單純到混亂的轉變,以管鐘貫穿整段,融入錯綜聲響與殘響,營造紊亂迷眩的氛圍。第三段(蝴蝶風)是首段意念的倒轉,明亮而顫動的上行線條交織於各聲部間,如蝴蝶振翅引發旋風。尾奏(而後葉落)中,喘息般的氣聲是消逝前的掙扎,也重現些微的序奏素材,預示落葉的輪迴重生。

 

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