Episode 30: cold mountains, one belt, heart-break green
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Episode 30: Cold mountains, one belt, heart-break green
November 3, 2022 7pm
Cold mountains, one belt, heart-break green (2017)
Carolyn Chen (US), composer
Carol Fujino, violin
Paul Widner, cello
Leslie Newman, flute
Ryan Scott, percussion
Sanya Eng, harp
Trees shading trees, mist-smoke weaves.
Cold mountains, a belt, of heart-breaking green.
Dusk enters a high tower;
In it someone grieves.
All alone upon the jade terrace;
Homing birds return in haste.
Where is the way to return?
Long rest, short rest, bower after bower.
— “Tune: ‘Beautiful Barbarians’” by Li Bai, translated by Wai Lim Yip
Cold mountains, one belt, heart-break green is the second line of a song-lyric poem by Li Bai. This piece inspired by the poem’s images, as well as translator Wai Lim Yip’s linking of modernist poetry and Taoist aesthetics. Yip writes of the flexibility of syntax in Chinese poetry – how images can remain tenseless, unbounded from rigid syntactical rules. They need not conform to fixed parts of speech, nor fixed points in time or space. Events and images can emerge and interact with one another in an undifferentiated,
timeless mode of being, free from narrative interpretation or a set point of view. This piece seeks to pursue an analogous quality of freedom in sound.
Another reference point is the guqin, the Chinese 7-string zither traditionally played for meditation in nature. The guqin’s aesthetics of harmony with nature, timbral subtlety, and freedom in temporal interpretation have all shaped my own musical thinking. Harp and bass flute are relatives of the guqin and xiao, the vertical flute with which guqin is most often paired. The music seeks a softened path in which contradictory qualities can breathe in unison. – Carolyn Chen