The Singing Gobi Desert was written for the PRISM Quartet and Music from China. The work calls for nine players: erhu/zhonghu (二胡/中胡), sheng (笙), pipa (琵琶), yangqin (扬琴), saxophone quartet (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone) and percussion (marimba [five octaves], crotales, glockenspiel, bell tree, small suspended cymbal, wind gong, large tam-tam, two bangos [high and low] and two congas [high and low]).
The Gobi Desert, which covers much part of the famed ancient Silk Road, is well-known for a natural phenomenon—the singing-sands, a noise made by sand grains as they pass over each other when wind moves them across the surface of sand dunes. Unlike most sand particles, which are coarse and irregular, the particles of the singing-sands are round and smooth. In dry weather conditions, these particles of sand rub against each other, creating an eerie musical sound.
I first experienced the singing-sands of the Gobi Desert in 2000, during a field trip of Silk Road music culture in northwest China. The overwhelming variety and beauty of folk and traditional music in the region profoundly changed me, and altered my understanding of Chinese history and Chinese culture. The title of the work, which is written in three continuous movements, reflects my personal experiences on the trip, and the music I heard and collected.
The Singing Gobi Desert was premiered by the PRISM Quartet and Music from China on February 3rd, 2012, at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York City.
The Singing Gobi Desert was commissioned with generous support from the following organizations:
The Koussevitzky Music FoundationsThe Singing Gobi Dessert was commissioned for The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress, and dedicated to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky.
Chamber Music AmericaThe Singing Gobi Dessert has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Commissioning Program, with funding generously provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.
PRISM Quartet, Inc.
Music From China