About the “Miles Upon Miles” Exhibition:

Reflections on the Creative Process between Composer and Performer

Written from my perspective as the performer, this is a blog post about the journey of commissioning new works, rehearsing them, and bringing them to life in concert, and it is intended to enhance appreciation of the creative process between composer and performer. It is my hope that this reflection will also prove insightful for composers, performers, violinists, and music lovers alike.

This commissioning project includes three composers whose works are to be performed over the course of the three concerts that constitute the “The Spirit of the Adventurers Concert Series” at the Hong Kong Museum of History in January and February 2018.

Commissioning the works:

The new works for these concerts are inspired by the “Miles upon Miles: World Heritage along the Silk Road” exhibition of the Hong Kong Museum of History. I commissioned three works for solo violin from composers from different parts of the world, and these never-before-heard pieces had world premieres at the exhibition.

Much the same way that the heritage of all individuals and countries is inspired and informed by myriad traditions, both indigenous and imported, I wanted the composers through fusing traditions together to compose music that reflects the multi-faceted and unique nature of our identities. I was interested in having the composers explore the rich and varied musical traditions along the Silk Road and the cross-culturalization that resulted from the Silk Road. I asked the composers to include music from the countries along the Silk Road and to be inspired by the beautiful relics displayed at the exhibition. I wanted the composers to compose new, inspiring, innovative, and exciting music derived from old art.

I hope the audience will come away from the concerts with an appreciation for musical art as a medium for cultural synthesis and as an avenue for international cultural exchange, relics of the past serving as inspiration for new art, and the cultures of the Silk Road serving as an artistic oasis for the future.

Post-Concert Reflection:

Yip Miles Upon Miles:

I appreciate the variety of musical material in this work – each movement is able to capture the essence of the different examples of art from the Exhibit. In Gilt Bronze, the use of overpressure combined with harmonics and sul ponticello creates a metallic sound that is fitting.

The rhythmic drive in Cameleer brings to mind the image of an adventurer traveling with excitement to new places. The electronics involving the Xinjiang Muqam also lend a celebratory and uplifting feel to the overall movement.

Sancai creates a desolate atmosphere evoking the mystery and wonder of the centuries old relics on display.

Yao Miles Upon Miles:

The first movement, Silk Road, in an amazing movement in its evoking the mystery of the Silk Road. The use of trills and drones is utterly spellbinding.

The second movement, Buddhist Mantra, is special in its form – the first few minutes are full of suppressed energy and tension that is finally released through long, hushed harmonics.

Kung Fu is a fun movement that uses pizzicato to introduce a popular Hong Kong theme that undergoes various transformations over the course of the movement. Great fun!

Foumai Relics:

This work captures very eloquently the character of each of the eight relics that inspired the various movements. The premiere of the work in the gallery of the Museum was especially captivating in that the Jump Dancer relic was immediately beside me as I performed allowing the audience to experience the relic in two different “lights” simultaneously.

The piece is unique in the way that each of the movements focuses on a particular violin technique. For example, the Wooden Scrolls movement is played exclusively with pizzicato emphasizing the woody quality of the relic and the violin at the same time. The Jeweled Loops movement is also special in that it is played entirely in harmonics to create a glassy effect inspired by the artifact.

The Jump Dancer is one of my favorite movements for its capturing the quality of jumping. Foumai brilliantly includes ricochet bowing, harmonics and arpeggios in this brief movement.

The New Works:

Austin Yip: Miles Upon Miles (2018)

Michael-Thomas Foumai: Relics (2018)

Yao Chen: Miles upon Miles (2018)


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