Programme Notes

In recent decades, composers from many countries have been creating a repertoire of contemporary music for traditional instruments of their societies. I tell my composition and music-history students that this is one of the most important musical developments of our time, and that nowhere is this more apparent than in societies of Chinese heritage.

As a composer rooted in completely different traditions, it has been fascinating and enjoyable for me to learn about Chinese instruments and to find ways of making them sing in what I hope are new but still respectful ways. Over the past decade I’ve written seven pieces for traditional Chinese instruments, two of which have been premiered by the Taipei Liuqin Ensemble. It is an honor to continue my musical partnership with Taiwan by sharing a new composition with you today. I am deeply grateful to Chen Chih-Sheng and the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra for this opportunity.

In recent years I have become more and more interested in a three-dimensional approach to music, in which the spatial placement of sounds is important. This will be apparent at the very beginning of Ceremony of Yearning. Please also notice how the percussion, dizi and sheng players are split into mirror-image groups on opposite sides of the stage.

Hand in hand with my love of musical space is a sense of ritual in many of my recent compositions. Although not explicitly connected to any religion, such pieces nevertheless have what I hope is a sense of spiritual profundity. The title Ceremony of Yearning acknowledges this ritualistic sense, as well as the nature of this composition’s intense emotions.