Aubade with Ashen Clouds, Scarlet Sky
En hommage à Debussy
Hot Pot Suite
There Was Set Before Me a Mighty Hill
Aubade with Ashen Clouds, Scarlet Sky is a meditation of the west coast wildfires earlier this year. Although it was not my first time away from home, the experience of leaving my family in the wake of a pandemic, the ongoing battle against systemic racism, and a contentious election cycle on top of these fires only heightened my anxieties. Particularly in Oregon—my home state—these fires were the largest and most destructive since the Eagle Creek Fire of 2017. In the aftermath three years ago, I remember a collective feeling of hope and optimism; there was a sense that the treasured Columbia Gorge would be rejuvenated, and it eventually was. The forests and trails are not as verdant as they used to be, but the progression was a future that the community knew would become reality. Perhaps this is more a reflection of the international trauma we have all been affected by this year, but the previous hope was nowhere to be found. The images of the fiery sunrises and the clouds of ash devastated me. Because of my upbringing in Oregon, I have developed a deep connection to nature, and it pained me seeing such a beloved place burned to ashes again.
En homage à Debussy was written to honor the composer on the 100th anniversary of his death. In addition to mixing some of Debussy’s compositional techniques with my own, I used a musical representation of his full name: Claude Achille Debussy. It appears very clearly at the beginning, middle and end of the piece. Every letter of his name can be represented musically using letter names of pitches or sol-fa syllables. For example, “u” is represented by the pitch C, which in Guido D’Arezzo’s solfège system is “ut.” For “y” I chose F# or “fi.”
Hot Pot Suite (2021) is a piece for solo clarinet in Bb. It’s commissioned by clarinetist Jackie Glazier and premiered on November 29, 2021. The inspiration of this piece was from one of my favorite food in the world: Chinese hot pot. The piece has three movements, each is based on one hot pot style in China, I: Beijing, II: Chongqing, III: Manchu. Beijing hot pot tastes salty, Chongqing Hot pot is very spicy, and Manchu Hot pot is from my hometown, the northeast of China and it tastes sour. During the pandemic, racist views had increased toward Asian communities. As a composer, I start to think about what can I do for this community. In this piece, I used one of my favorite food, Chinese hot pot, as the inspiration, and turn food into music. Sometimes people don’t like others because they don’t know a lot about others, maybe they have different cultures, eat different food, speak different languages, but if you spent time listening to each other, you would see all colors are beautiful.
Chandra - Composed for the Chyornii and Dorado duo, aka Jessica Dodge, alto sax and Anthony Aguayo, Bb clarinet, 2019. Chandra, translated from sanskrit, means moon, derived from the sanskrit word “to shine”. In the first movement, delicate timbres and intertwining melodies illustrate the beauty of the moon’s alluring iridescent glow. The second movement depicts Chandra dancing through space, playing with their planetary shine, as cyclical rhythms and gestures float and play in sonic space.
There Was Set Before Me a Mighty Hill - I have been much inspired by Stephen Crane’s poetry, which I find rewardingly vivid, imaginative, and colorful. Like all great poetry, it leaves lots to the imagination and offers new insights upon repeated reading: There was set before me a mighty hill, And long days I climbed Through regions of snow. When I had before me the summit-view, It seemed that my labor Had been to see gardens Lying at impossible distances. In There Was Set Before Me a Mighty Hill images of nature (the mighty hill, snow, gardens) are used to capture the human quest for beauty (gardens) and the challenge this can involve (“long days I climbed through regions of snow”). Some of the ideas and emotions evoked by the poem that resonate with me are the struggle of climbing, the view at the summit, and the realization that beauty and “good” can be at times just beyond one’s reach. I don’t read “lying at impossible distances” as defeatist, but rather as giving an impetus to continue to “labor” towards one’s meaningful goals, in this case a life of nurturing and harmony represented by “gardens.”