The work was composed in 1985 and premiered on March 26th, 1986, at the Markin Hall in New York City with the Music Today Ensemble, Irene Gubrud, Soprano and Gerald Schwarz, conductor. It is scored for Soprano, fl/picc/a.fl, ob, cl, bn, hn, perc, hp, pno, and strings.
Only a couple of works from the mid-eighties remain in my catalog. I feel that most of my works before H'un (Lacerations): In Memoriam 1966-76 (written in 1988), are student works and less mature. Many times I also contemplated taking this work out from the catalog, but there is something in it which still speaks to me in a special way. And so it lingers on.
The Sung Dynasty (960-1279 AD) is glorious in the history of Chinese literature for its development of poetry in the ci style, of which the number of characters in each sentence is irregular, though highly disciplined by its own rules. This new form of poetry broke away from the rigidness of the Tang Dynasty shi poem tradition which was always with even number of lines and odd number (five or seven) of syllables (words/characters). Moreover, one of the main reasons for this phenomenon was that all these poems were written with music in mind and were meant to be sung. Just like in our time, a poet became popular if his or her songs were performed widely, although the performers at the time were mostly court-supported artists or artisans living in wealthy private homes. Unfortunately, we only inherited a handful of these poems with accompanying melodies. Most of the music was lost in aural tradition, due to the lack of accurate notation system.
Both of these two poems were associated with Hang Zhou, a city famous for its situation around the beautiful Western Lake in eastern China near Shanghai. And both poems dealt with the theme of love. In the first poem, Lu You, after a separation of ten years and an accidental rendezvous in a garden in Hang Zhou, regrets to his cousin and first wife over their lost love and ill-fated marriage, due to his mother’s dislike to the bride.
Chai Tou Feng
hong su shou, huang teng jou, Pink creamy hands, yellow caned wine,
man cheng chun se gong chiang liu. Full city is of spring color with palace wall and willows.
dong feng gno, huan ching bo, East wind is hateful and joys of love are scarce.
yi huai chou shu, ji nian li suo, One heartful of sorrow has brought many years of separation,
cuo, cuo, cuo! Wrong, wrong, wrong!
chun yü jou, ren kong shou, The Spring is the same as before, but she thins in vain.
lei hen hong yi jiao shao tou. Her mermaid-silk scarf is wholly soaked in tear and red stains.
tao hua luo,shian chi guo. Peach blossoms falls on quiet ponds and pavilions.
shan meng sui zai, Though our sacred mountain vows remain,
jing shu nan tuo, the Brocade letters can’t be sent.
muo, muo, muo! No more, no more, no more!
The second poet Li Qing Zhao was perhaps the most well known woman poet in the history of Chinese literature, which was dominated by male chauvinism. So it is especially remarkable that all of her poems were well documented and studied by later generations of students. At the time when the poem was written, China was invaded by the Mongolians and the poet saw the coming to the end of her motherland and the dynasty. During the war, she also lost her beloved husband. Here she laments the tragedy of her nation and the misfortune in her personal life.
Sheng Sheng Man
xum xum mi mi, leng leng qin qin, Seek, seek! Search, search! Cold, cold! Bare, bare!
ci ci can can chi chi. Grief, grief! Cruel sorrow! Sorrow!
zha nuan huan han shi hou, Just warm but still chilly is
zui nan ziang si. The most difficult time to endure.
san bei liang zhan dan ziu, Two and three cups of light wine,
zen di ta wan lai feng ji! How can it overcome the evening’s sharply rustling wind!
yan guo ye, zhen shang sin, Wild geese pass. So sad to see
chue shi zou shi shiang shi-e. old time’s acquaintances.
man di huang hua dui ji-e, Chrysanthemums lay all over
chiao cui sun, ground withered and decaying,
yü jin you shei kan zhe? Now who would bear to pluck?
shou zhe chuang er, Leaning on the window,
du zi zen sheng de he! How horrible to see the darkening day alone!
wu tong gen jian xi yu, Parasol tree in the misty rain,
dao huang hun dian dian di di, Arriving at the dust drop by drop and drip by drip,
zhe ci di, zen yi guo chou zi liao de! This surrounding atmosphere, how could it be ever ended by a single word of sorrow!