For Rental or Perusal

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Email: Robert Thompson
Tel: 212-254-2100
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Melodies of a Flute (2011) 幽幽簫聲

for flute/alto flute, violin, violoncello & marimba (and one small suspended cymbal)

I. Flute and Phoenix 鳳舞簫鳴
II. Lotus Flowers 藕花深處

Program Note

Melodies of a Flute was commissioned by Luci Janssen, for her husband Richard, on the occasion of their 40th wedding anniversary. It was written for Camerata Pacifica, who gave the premiere performance on April 10th, 2012, at Huntington Library of San Marino, California, with Adrian Spence on flute and alto flute, Catherine Leonard on violin, Ani Aznavoorian on violoncello, and Ji Hye Jung on marimba and small suspended cymbal.

Melodies of a Flute was inspired by the poetry of Li Qing Zhao (李清照1084-c. 1051), arguably the most important woman poet in the history of Chinese literature. Unlike her (mostly male) contemporaries during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Li was audacious in expressing her deep feelings, sometimes in a rather direct and sensuous way. According to the Confucius tradition, unwavering expression of love and passion was considered taboo and distasteful. Most of the “love” poems found in ancient Chinese poetry were often used as metaphors for articulating something else, e.g. the author’s loyalty to the emperor. When love was the true intended theme, it was often implied in other symbolic forms such as flowers or weather.

But Li Qing Zhao, expressively or metaphorically, wrote often about her love life with Zhao Ming Cheng, a government official and Li’s soul-mate husband.

In the first movement, I tried to capture the mood of longing in Memories of a Flute on the Phoenix Terrace, in which Li referred her union to Zhao to an old myth about love and music to utter her melancholy emotional feeling on the eve of Zhao’s departure to a far-away post, designated by the emperor. This fable, known as Flute and Phoenix, was a recurrent reference in her poems: Nong Yu, an avid jade flute player and the daughter of a Duke, fell in love with a virtuoso musician named Xiao Shi, who, when playing the (vertical) flute, could recreate the song of the phoenix. Later the two were married and played flutes everyday on the Phoenix Terrace built by the Duke, until one day, charmed by the music, the phoenix came and brought them to heaven.

Memories of a Flute on the Phoenix Terrace 鳳凰臺上憶吹簫

No more aroma from the gilt incense burner,
Only the crimson waves of quilts left in bed;
No mood to disentangle my curls,
Only me watching the morning sun staring at the dusty jewel box.

So much sadness of separation I am terrified to endure;
So many words I crave but hesitate to utter.
I have grown thinner and thinner as days have gone by,
Not for over drinking, nor for the sorrow of autumn.

This is it! This is it! This time when he leaves,
I won’t retain him even with thousands of Farewells I sing.
I fret with the thoughts of my beloved being far, far away,
Leaving me alone in this empty chamber locked by fog and smog;
No one but the passing-by stream will keep me company,
Watching over my fixed gaze day in and day out where
Only solitude is my new companion.

The image of the second movement, Lotus Flowers came from a poem in which the author accounted a spontaneous boating race and lost her way among the lotus flowers. As in many of Li’s works, this poem may suggest itself as a sensuous metaphor:

To the Tune: Like a Dream 如夢令

I always remember that dusk at a pagoda by the creek.
In our boats, we were exulted but exhausted,
Too tipsy to remember our way home;
We lost into the deep place of lotus flowers.

Row! Row!
We startled a flock of egrets and gulls.

—Bright Sheng

盛宗亮 幽幽簫聲

《幽幽簫聲》受 Luci Janssen 委約,作為她與丈夫 Richard 結婚 40週年紀念日演出的作品。樂曲為 Camerata Pacifica 而作,並由該團於 2012年 4月 10日在加州聖馬力諾市的亨廷頓圖書館首演。由 Adrian Spence 吹長笛和中音長笛,Catherine Leonard 拉小提琴,Ani Aznavoorian 拉大提琴,和 Ji Hye Jung 負責馬林巴琴和小懸鈸。

《幽幽簫聲》的靈感源於中國文學史上最重要的女詩人李清照( 1084-1051)的兩首詞。於她同期宋代(公元 960-1279年)以男性為主的詞人不同的是,李清照常大膽表達她的感情深處,有時相當直接甚至帶有感官觸覺。從孔夫子的傳統概念來看,直接表達情愛和激情是忌諱和低級趣味的。中國古代多數有關“愛情”的詩詞通常用作比喻,如對皇帝的忠誠等等。當愛情真為主題時,它則常常被其他詞彙暗示,比如鮮花或者天氣。






第二樂章的音樂形象源於另一首短詞,描繪清照參與一次自發性的划船比賽,又又迷失於藕花深處 。如同許多清照作品,此詞本身可能便是一種性感的比喻:




—Bright Sheng