performed by Keyed Kontraptions (Meerenai Shim & Kris King), San Francisco, CA, USA, Apr. 2018
Sundowning is a neurological phenomenon most commonly seen in sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with sundowning usually begin to show behavioral problems after the sun sets. Sometimes they get agitated, restless, or even aggressive; sometimes they suffer from auditory hallucination, illusion, or even delusional disorder. Such syndrome visited my aged grandmother, which put her in a state of mood swings, mental confusion, and cognitive disorder. I found her physical functions obviously degenerating; she even lost her sense of hearing the week before her death.
This piece is divided into two uninterrupted sections: Agitation and Hallucination. I attempt to record the decaying and dreary living gestures of an aged person at the last stage of her life. Sundowning II is commissioned by Guerrilla Composers Guild and written for Meerenai Shim & Kris King of Keyed Kontraptions.
© Lily Chen 2019. All rights reserved.
commissioned by Taiwan Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra | NSO 國家交響樂團委託創作
Glittering Across the Ocean compiles my impressions and imaginations about the ocean as well as conveys the nostalgia and concern I feel for Taiwan while living across the Pacific in West Coast of the United States. To me, the ocean is one of the most intimate Taiwanese images. Born and bred in Hualien, and studying in the Bay Area in recent years, I have long lived in coastal cities and closely perceived many features of the ocean. In the poem “Manuscript in the Bottle,” Yang Mu compares his homesickness to surging waves: “when I set my foot in the ocean…/ will Hualien, oh Hualien in June / start a rumor of a tsunami?” Like the poet, I grew up in Hualien and studied in Berkeley; this poem deeply touches me.
This piece starts with diverse images of the ocean, its starlit splendor, its billowing tides, its shimmering waves on the ocean surface. In a different perspective, if I watch my distant hometown from the Bay Area, the tiny motions of waves on this shore might possibly cause a great tsunami or earthquake on the other shore. Through a shifting of perspectives from one shore to the other, I employ harmonics, trills, vibrations, resonances, subtle but complex textural and timbral changes, not only to represent shimmering waves and surging tsunamis, but also to shape dramatic fluctuations and transitions between the two scenarios.
In the process of composing this piece, a violent earthquake severely hit Hualien on 6 February 2018. I’d like to dedicate this piece to the ocean and the people in my hometown in token of my blessing for them, whether I am on this shore or on the other shore of the Pacific.
〈彼岸星潭〉彙集了我對海洋的印象與想像，是我在美國西岸隔著太平洋對彼岸故鄉的遙望與關注。海洋是我最親近的台灣意象之一。生長於花蓮，在關渡求學，而今旅居美國舊金山灣區， 我長年生活在臨海城市，感受到海洋的許多面貌。詩人楊牧在〈瓶中稿〉一詩中，將他對故鄉的思念比喻成一波波洶湧的浪：「當我涉足入海 / …不知道六月的花蓮啊花蓮 / 是否又謠傳海嘯？」同樣在花蓮出生，在柏克萊求學，我對此詩感觸甚深。
© Lily Chen 2018. All rights reserved.
performed by David Wegehaupt and Jeff Anderle, Jun. 2015, Splinter Reeds Concert (Berkeley, CA, USA)
The title “till we’re all in a whirl hitting the ground” comes from the lyrics “let’s cross over and over till we’re all in a whirl hitting the ground” of the song “Shall We Dance,” written by a Taiwanese indie-rock band Tizzy Bac. The story of the song is about lovers struggling to move on in spite of so many barriers and difficulties in between.
In this piece, I create a continuously decaying and receding form moving gradually from the loud chaotic “climax” to the silent fusion, in order to interpret the changing process of a relationship between two persons originally belonging to two different worlds but eventually getting closer to each other after a series of conflicts, struggles, dialogues, and compromises.
© Lily Chen 2013-2018. All rights reserved.
Orchestra Prize for 40th Anniversary Celebration (Taipei Symphony Orchestra), 2009
─ performed by Taipei Symphony Orchestra, June 2009, 40th Anniversary Concert (Taipei, Taiwan)
This musical piece is entitled “Hui-Lan.” Literally, the Chinese character「洄」( pronounced as Hui) means the circling and swirling of waters;「瀾」(pronounced as Lan) means great waves. “Hui-Lan” was the ancient name of Hualien, a county located in the eastern part of Taiwan. The origin of its name was recorded in The History of Hualien County, “East of the Hualien Stream, where the waters flew into the ocean, great waves dashed against one another, forming whirls and surges. So, according to the natural phenomenon, they named the place Hui-Lan.” Later its assonance “Hualien” was used and has continued to be used till today.
Hualien-born and Hualien-bred, the composer chooses “Hui-Lan” (the ancient name of Hualien) to be the title and finds inspiration in it. She attempts to depict, through music, the scene of whirling waves produced when ocean waves and stream waters dash against each other. She extends the meaning of “Hui-Lan” and makes it identical with Hualien by transforming into music many natural elements of Hualien, such as wind blowing, birds chirping, rain dropping, clouds floating, mountain creeks flowing in the gorge, stones and rocks falling, and the Pacific surging. Furthermore, she borrows some melodic fragments (as indicated below) from “You Came,” a famous song composed by Mr. Guo Tze-jiu and familiar to people in Hualien. However, she makes them implicit and obscure through transformation. Applying part of the melody, the composer doesn’t mean to lay stress on the song, but hopes to add to this musical piece some symbolic meaning of humanistic spirit, which can be seen as a tribute to her hometown and to the composers of the preceding generation.
© Lily Chen 2013-2018. All rights reserved.