Dark Light is inspired by Fan Tsang Lang (Row in a Vast Billowing River), composed in Song Dynasty (960-1279). This classic work from the qin (7-string zither) repertoire has inspired several famous Chinese landscape ink paintings. The piece may denote a scholar who, deserted by the emperor, rows across where Hsiao River and Hsiang River meets. Accompanied by the clouds and mists on the river, the waves are sometimes calm and sometimes vigorously fluctuated. They reflect the chaotic world he lived in.
In Dark Light, pentatonic clusters shift rapidly between black and white keys in all ranges and attempt to form different colours of light particles hidden behind the solo viola. They are the “colours” glowing in an otherwise grey Chinese brush painting. The viola leads with “super-pentatonic scales” to connect these flying particles, which later become heterophonic melodic cells. Toward the end, the viola and the ensemble develop into two different dimensions in time, as if the scholar has retrieved to his own contemplation, indifferent to the surrounding stormy waves.
Dark Light was written for Amsterdam’s Nieuw Ensemble and premiered at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ in April 2016. I have re-arranged it for a mixed ensemble of Chinese and western instruments for the collaboration between the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra and the Turning Point Ensemble.