Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Voice for the Formosan Parents – the Lullaby (搖嬰仔歌)

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

I recently completed a first draft of new orchestra composition which is a Theme & Variations on a famous Taiwanese lullaby, 搖嬰仔歌. I have found many variations in the translation of this melody’s title , “Cradle Song”, “Voice for the Formosan Parents – the Lullaby” or simply “the Lullaby”.  My wife sings this melody to our daughter every night and calls it “Rocking the baby”, my daughter just calls it “sleep song.”  We though it was an old Taiwanese folk song but when I started to do research on it I found it is a modern song. It was written in 1945 by the famous Taiwanese composer, 呂泉生 (Lu Chuan-sheng). Professor Lu was known as the Father of Taiwan Children’s Choir  because he was dedicated to promoting Children’s choir for 50 years as well as writing over 200 composition.  I have read a few stories about the events inspiring the writing of this piece:

In May 1945 during WWII, the allies bombarded Taiwan heavily to fight against Japan.  Master Lu evacuated his wife and 3 months old infant to the countryside of Feng Yuan, his hometown.  He stayed in Taipei and worked in Taipei Broadcast Bureau.  As the night fell, Master Lu’s longing for his wife and new born son inspired the song. The song has a wonderful simplicity that expresses the traditional attitude all Chinese parents have toward their children. It extols the hardships and high expectations experienced during child rearing.

My wife translated the lyrics which where written by Master Lu
father-in-law as:
The version of this melody I’m using for my composition is a little different as it is a transcription of the way my wife sings it to my daughter, but I have found this copy online of the original after I completed my piece.
A baby Sleeps
Growing one inch a night
Sweet baby
growing one foot a night
Rock the baby until sunset
staring at the baby in my arm
you are my sweetheart
worry you’ll get cold
cherish the baby like gold
It’s a great responsibility to bring up a baby
If only you get married, my duty will be relieved.

Sheet music to the lullaby

Sheet music to "the lullaby"

Master Lu Chuan-sheng passed away in the United States March 17, 2008 but generations long after will be still learning his songs to perform in concerts. I hope he would have enjoyed my composition inspired from his.



Saturday, March 28th, 2009
Michael playing sheng.

Michael playing sheng.

        I’m currently working on a new orchestra composition that adds two Chinese instruments to the orchestra, the shēng and gǔzhēngThe sheng is a 3000 year old Chinese free-reed bamboo mouth organ. It reached Europe around 1777 with Pere Amiot, and its influence was so strong that it resulted in the invention of the reed organ, concertina, harmonica and accordion. I have been learning how to play the sheng since the summer of 2008, when I finally bought one in Taipei, Taiwan.  I have been interested in the instrument for 20 years, though I first learned about the Japanese version called a shō. I bought a modern 38 key chromatic jiàn sheng, which is a very versatile instrument. Being chromatic means it can play in any key and works well in western music as well as traditional Chinese. One of the things that I like about this instruments is it play chords like a piano. As a life long woodwind player I rarely get to play chords on my instruments so it is great to be able to. Another thing that is cool about this instrument is it makes sound when you breath out or in. So you can keep it making sound for a long time.  


String Theory – First Rehearsal

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009
String Theory p.13

String Theory p.13

Rehearsing my guided improvisation compositions is always a bit of a challenge at the first rehearsal. Most of the confusion stems from the unfamiliarity of the orchestral musician to improvisation, so the first question is always what am I supposed to do? Now the other bit of confusion come from the notation style which is also rather unique. I always write a ledger to explain the notation but many time the musician fail to read it before the first rehearsal and I waste time reading to them. I also noticed that old musicians seem more confused by none standard notation, they don’t seem to be a flexible in excepting new concepts. It is to be expected that the first rehearsal of a guide improvisation piece does not go to well as the musician need some time to figure out and to explore ideas that what will work. It one of the reasons why it is important to rehearse a piece like this, though it is equally important to make sure you don’t over rehearse so it does not be come stale. If the musicians are getting the concepts quickly I tend to cut short rehearsals, so ideas stay fresh. On the first rehearsal of String Theory, musicians where really just getting there feet wet trying to figure out what they can do, that included the conductor. I’m going to  have the conductor, Dr. Mark Alburger (who is a veteran conductor of my music) to conduct more, more clues and encouragement to the musicians then just the marking the sections like I asked him to do the first time. Hopefully at tonight’s rehearsal people will be more comfortable playing this work and better performance results. I think I’m not going to play this time and just listen to better evaluate what is going on.


String Theory just completed

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

String Theory        I have just completed a new composition, String Theory, which will be performed by the SFCCO on February 28th, 2009.  String Theory is inspired by the theoretical physics theory of the same name. String Theory is the revolutionary and shocking branch of theoretical physics that combines quantum mechanics and general relativity into a quantum theory of gravity. According to string theory, absolutely everything in the universe—all of the particles that make up matter and forces—is comprised of tiny vibrating fundamental strings. The Strings of string theory are one-dimensional oscillating lines, but they are no longer considered fundamental to the theory, which can be formulated in terms of points or surfaces too. In this composition, I have used graphical notation representing strings, points and surfaces to guide the orchestra in improvisation. Since String Theory may prove Einstein’s unified field theory at the very end of the composition the orchestra unites. If String Theory proves to be true it creates an elegant universe composed entirely of the music of strings.