Yao Chen: Miles Upon Miles《绵亘万里》(2018)

(Commissioned and premiered by violinist Patrick T.S. Yim)

Performances

February 25, 2018 at the “Spirit of the Adventurers Concert Series” at the Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong. (World Premiere Performance)

August 18, 2018 at the National Museum of Denmark (The Danish Music Museum), Copenhagen, Denmark. (excerpt)

December 1, 2018 at the “Saturday Music Platform” (Presented by Kung Music Workshop & Tai Kwun Center for Heritage and Art), Tai Kwun Laundry Steps, Hong Kong. (excerpt)

Programme Notes

姚晨 Yao Chen
绵亘万里 Miles upon Miles
For violin solo, 2018

Commissioned by Hong Kong Baptist University and violinist Patrick Yim for the occasion of “Miles upon Miles: World Heritage along the Silk Road” exhibition of the Hong Kong Museum of History.

1. Silk Road
2. Buddhist Mantra
3. Kung Fu

The ancient Silk Road facilitated the transmission, in ways both mysterious and rich, of
materials and cultural ideas at a time when extended travel was more or less impossible.
Sound was a constant companion on these journeys through deserts, mountains and rivers, and the incorporation of new sounds into the performing traditions of a plethora of cultures unleashed an unstoppable force in the course of music history: the free flow, across borders and cultures, of sound itself.

Miles upon Miles is my personal meditation on three of the myriad facets of this trade
route, or more broadly of zones of transition in general, and also on three ways of violin
playing.

The first movement, Silk Road, makes strong use of tremolos and trills to evoke a specific
atmosphere, which is presented right at the beginning, a simple ascending motif from which the entire piece expands. The rhythmic momentum relents here and there, to heighten the degree of expression, before ultimately fading into a mood of peaceful acceptance.

The closing passages of Silk Road foreshadow a feature of the second movement, Buddhist Mantra: the use of open strings. The movement is built on a cascade of three-note patterns played on the bridge, always varying, always restless, always striving forward until a moment when the mantra takes effect and sustained harmonics rise to the fore.

The last note of Buddhist Mantra is a plucked one, and this note signifies that pizzicato will be a dominant trait of the final movement, Kung Fu, which alternates plucked and bowed sounds in conjuring up an unstable and, yes, even martial world, one not far off from the rustic and hardscrabble world of folk fiddling at times. The music is sprightly but sophisticated, exciting and endearing.