Category Archives: Program Notes

Glittering Across the Ocean (彼岸星潭): for orchestra (2018)

commissioned by Taiwan Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra | NSO 國家交響樂團委託創作

ocean-nice1

Program Note:

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。

我以太平洋沿岸的七星潭為題,借「星潭」兩字字義衍生出星輝斑斕的海洋意象,描繪海面的閃爍波光與層疊的浪潮;然而當我轉換視角,從所在的太平洋東端遙望太平洋西端的故鄉,此岸的輕微波動也可能引發彼岸劇烈的海嘯與地震。透過此岸與彼岸交錯的視角轉換,我運用大量的泛音、顫音,擊樂的振動與殘響,以及交錯複雜的聲線織度和音色變換,欲呈現閃爍波浪與劇烈海嘯兩種不同的情景,也藉由兩者的來回擺盪,營造出戲劇性的波動與反差。

在此曲創作過程中,花蓮發生強震(2018年二月六日)。我想以此曲祝願故鄉的海與人,不論我身在海洋的此岸或彼岸。

© Lily Chen 2018. All rights reserved.
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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 create 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.”

《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。

© Lily Chen 2013-2018. All rights reserved.

till we’re all in a whirl hitting the ground: for Alto Saxophone and Bass Clarinet (2015)

performed by David Wegehaupt and Jeff Anderle, Jun. 2015, Splinter Reeds Concert (Berkeley, CA, USA)

Program Note:

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.

 

Whirling Waves (洄瀾) : for Orchestra (2007)

 

Orchestra Prize for 40th Anniversary Celebration (Taipei Symphony Orchestra), 2009
─  performed by Taipei Symphony Orchestra, June 2009, 40th Anniversary Concert (Taipei, Taiwan)

Program Note:

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.you-came此曲曲名「洄瀾」,從字面上解釋,「洄」意為水流盤旋迴轉,「瀾」即為大波浪之意。「洄瀾」一詞是花蓮的古地名,花蓮縣志云:花蓮溪東,注其水與海濤激盪,迂迴澎湃,狀之以其容,故曰洄瀾。後之人諧為花蓮,至今沿襲之。
身為土生土長的花蓮人,筆者選用花蓮古地名「洄瀾」作為題目與創作靈感。本曲企圖透過音樂,描繪海浪與溪水碰撞激
盪產生的澎湃「洄瀾」之樣貌;更進一步引申為「花蓮」之意,將更多花蓮渾然天成的自然景象──風聲、鳥鳴,滴雨、浮雲,峽谷的澗水、落石,太平洋的洶湧──轉化於音樂中。此外,此曲也將花蓮音樂之父郭子究所作、花蓮人所熟悉的歌曲〈你來〉的旋律片段,透過混合、擷取、變形等手法隱藏在曲中,雖然並無刻意強調,但希望能藉此製造另一層人文的象徵意義,作為對花蓮及前輩的致敬。

huilan

© Lily Chen 2013-2018. All rights reserved.

Four Moods: for Flute, Cello, and Piano (2009)

Performed by TNUA ensemble (Fl. 黃靖婷,Vc. 羅翡翠,Pn. 黃子臻), Jun. 2009, Taipei, Taiwan

Program Note:

The composer chooses “Four Moods” as the title of this work for two reasons: not only to depict four “sentiments or states of mind”, but also to create four kinds of musical “atmospheres” which are co-relative, though of different shades.

This work consists of four sections, whose subtitles are “solitude,” “waiting,” “illusion,” and “obsession.” These four mental conditions occur in sequence and in a cause-and-effect relationship. Solitude leads to anticipation; the futile process of restless waiting leads to illusion; the disillusionment of yearning and fantasy leads to obsession caused by a mixture of jealousy and resentment. Overwhelmed with such emotions, one falls into a state of collapse and then again feels solitude, which exists all the time. In this way, the four moods form a vicious circle.

By means of obscure musical expressions and the manipulation of timbres, the composer intends to transform these moods into music and create emotional atmospheres. The purpose for adding the subtitles to the four sections is to provide some associable and perceivable direction for the performers and the listeners, in the hope that the original thoughts of the composer can be extended infinitely through the interpretation of the performers as well as the re-interpretation of the listeners.


本曲以「Four Moods」為題,有兩層意涵:除了表達四種「情緒」,更企圖營造四種色調不同、卻相互連結的音樂「氛圍」。

Four Moods共分為四個段落(副標題為solitude,waiting,illusion,obsession),分別描寫孤獨、等待、幻覺、心魔四種情緒。四者的發展具先後與因果關係:因感受孤獨而有所企盼;不安的等待落空後,產生幻覺;憧憬和幻想終究夢碎,最後被妒恨形成之心魔所籠罩。情緒滿溢、崩潰後,又重新感受始終存在的孤獨,四種情緒再次進入惡性循環。

我選擇隱晦的音樂語彙表達,運用音色將情感加以轉化,企圖營造出情緒氛圍。為各段落所定的標題,目的在於提供演奏者與聽者某個聯想或體悟的方向,希望經由演奏者的詮釋與聽者的再詮釋,此曲的創作意念得以無限延伸。

© Lily Chen 2013-2018. All rights reserved.

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.

1
A swift and downward glissando:
someone puts a ladder
against my childhood window.

2
I wait and long for you:
a turning die in the empty bowl of night
attempting to create the 7th side.

3
Silent soybean milk: day after day
from my bowl to my body flows
the blank music.


本曲創作理念來自詩人陳黎的《小宇宙:現代俳句100首》。俳句源自日本,是三行的短詩體,陳黎以日本俳句為原型,為它加上當代的趣味,試圖賦予現代詩新的可能性。在這些二、三十字的三行短詩裡,詩人以精鍊簡潔的文字,傳達豐富的意念,激發讀者的想像。雖然置身狹小有限的文字載體中,每首現代俳句宛若一個蘊含極大能量的小宇宙。

在此曲中,我借用「小宇宙」的概念,在音樂素材上,以「動」、「靜」兩種元素貫穿全曲,在配器上,也只選用定音鼓與古箏兩種樂器作為主要的樂器,試圖運用單純、有限的素材,探索多元的聲響效果,開發音樂的可能性,創造出簡單卻豐富的音樂小宇宙。

我選用《小宇宙》中的三首短詩作為本曲三個段落的原始概念,將作曲者在閱讀詩作時所感受到的「流動」與「靜止」的能量,轉化為音樂的動機素材。曲中三段皆運用兩種具對比性的主要素材加以發展,可視為音樂能量與張力逐漸累積並相互轉移、消長的過程。這三首俳句雖是樂念的發想,但音樂本身與文字並不存在絕對必然的對應性,其目的在於提供演奏者與聽者更多的聯想空間。

1

快速而下行的滑奏:

有人在我童年的窗口

放了一把梯子。

2

我等候,我渴望你:

一粒骰子在夜的空碗裡

企圖轉出第七面。

3

靜默的豆漿:日復一日,

從我的碗流到我的體內的

空白的音樂。

© Lily Chen 2013-2018. All rights reserved.

Rambling (蔓生): for Flute, Clarinet, Trombone, and Double Bass (2012)

performed by Eco Ensemble, May 2013, Berkeley New Music Project (Berkeley, CA, USA)

Program Note:

The inspiration of this piece comes from rambling plants, which to me are symbolic of vitality, with their long shoots putting out, growing, and extending over walls or other plants. Through interweaving and mixing lines of different parts as well as developing and transforming the materials, I attempt to represent the process of the plant spouting, getting exuberant, blooming, and then withering and fading. My ultimate end is to create a rambling atmosphere in music.


此曲的原始意念來自蔓生植物,它們枝幹細長,攀附而生,易於延展伸長,極具生命力。我想透過各聲部線條的交織混合與素材的發展變化,表達植物從萌發茁壯、蔓延至盛放、而又凋零的過程,也希望這些聲音及能量的發展與消長,能顯示出一種音樂的蔓生現象

© Lily Chen 2013-2018. All rights reserved.