The Ocean of Tears is meant to be a sonic picture of sadness and of reflection. It was embarked upon after a commission was secured from the Canada Council for the Arts. Maestro Chih-Sheng Chen of the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra of Taiwan, and Lan Tung, leader of the Sound of Dragon Ensemble (Vancouver, Canada), suggested that I compose a work in two variations - one for Maesto Chen's Chinese Chamber Orchestra, and a second arrangement for the Sound of Dragon Ensemble. Povidentially, the commission was secured just before the COVID19 pandemic was declared, in March of 2020, so I was gainfully at work during the months of social distancing in 2020!
The challenge I presented myself was to evoke a sense of sadness utilizing the Chinese instrumentarium. I have always found Chinese instruments - not all but overall - to be bright in timbre, evoking almost a celebratory sound. Feelings of sadness, to my ears, require somewhat darker timbres. The Ocean of Tears tries to utilize melodies and harmonies that accord with this more sombre mood.
I tried to reflect upon the sadness in our world today, partly due to the pandemic, but also due to changing political and social configurations which seem to be making us forget our connectedness, and in fact to emphasize our separateness. It is only when we share in the consciousness of the sadness that all human beings are heir to, that we are able to overcome disunity. So, as with much of music, and indeed with art in general, The Ocean of Tears is an attempt to take a step towards this much needed awareness of our common humanity.
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts in the commissioning of The Ocean of Tears by Moshe Denburg.