Decorated Zither


Decorated Zither
for male voices 
Instrumentation: Male Choir or Six male solovoices
Premiere: October 11, 2014 – Wrocławscy Kameraliści/Piotr Karpeta
Score: Buy score at BabelScores!

Program note:
The poem ‘Decorated Zither’ by Li Shangyin (813-858) acts like a sort of Cantus Firmus in this piece. The poem itself is a, quite intriguing, love poem, clearly written in a mystical Taoism manner.

The male choir (or six male voices) is divided into 3 groups, surrounding the audience. Group III, standing in front of the audience sings the poem and its tone material is clearly linked to the text as spoken in Chinese. The Bass sings the Cantus Firmus as mentioned above while the Tenor is constantly ‘commenting’ with a expanding and contracting canon. The other 2 groups has 2 clear functions; one being the exploration and representation of the of language or a voyage of language as it were. The second being the gradual transformation from noise to sound in group I and the opposite in group II.

Formally the piece can be divided into 8 different sections; all with different lengths, rhythmic speeds and dynamic envelopes, and so on, but still interlinked and derived from the text trying to draw an organic form.


(simplified Chinese)


(English translation by Qiu Xiaolong)

A decorated zither, for no reason, is made of fifty strings –
one string, one peg, each reminiscent of the youthful years. . .
Waking in the morning, Master Zhuang wonders whether he dreams of being a butterfly,
or a butterfly dreams of being Master Zhuang.
Wangdi, an ancient emperor, poured out his grief into the cuckoo cries in the spring.
A pearl holds its tears
against the bright moon on the blue ocean;
a jade-induced mist arises under the warm sun over Liantian field. . .
Oh, this feeling, to be recollected later in memories, is already confused.

score excerpt

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