About this work:
Commissioned by Music From China, with a grant provided by Mary Cary Charitable Trust, the piece Chinese Fables is written for erhu, pipa, cello and percussion, and premiered at Merkin Concert Hall on October 5, 2002 in New York City.
It's most inspiring when I learnt some of the most popular Chinese fables in my childhood. They are so vivid and humorous, full of imagination, yet so deep and logical in thinking. I used a mixed Chinese and western instrumental ensemble, including two bowing and one plucking instruments, plus a group of percussion, to express my impression on three stories in my musical language.
In the first movement The Fox Profited by the Tiger's Might, I used the erhu and the pipa to represent the flaunting fox who borrows the tiger's fierceness by walking in the latter’s company, while the cello and the percussion in low register support the image of the tiger.
In the second movement Master Dong-guo and the Wolf, I used the cello and the erhu to represent the softhearted scholar Dong-guo, who narrowly escaped being eaten by a wolf which he had helped to hide from a hunter. The pipa sounds sometimes charming and sometimes aggressive,
representing the cunning and the savage wolf.
In the third movement The Snipe and the Clam, I featured the percussion's high register in the texture made by all other instruments, to imagine the grapple scene between the snipe and the clam.
“If it doesn't rain today or tomorrow,” said the snipe, “there will be a dead clam lying here.”
“If I don't set you free today or tomorrow,” retorted the clam, “there will be a dead snipe here too.”
As neither would give way, a fisherman came and caught them both...
Version: Chinese instrumental ensemble
Year composed: 2002
Ensemble type: Chamber or Jazz Ensemble, Without Voice:Other Combinations, 2-5 players
Instrumentation notes: Instrumentation
Erhu, pipa (tuned bb, d#, e, a), cello, percussion:
(1st Mvt.) Suspended cymbal (S.Cym.), Bass drum (B.D.) w/bamboo clappers, Tam-tam.
(2nd Mvt.) 2 Woodblocks (W.B.), Small Beijing Opera gong (S.G.), 2 Cymbals (Cym.),
Hi-Hat (H.H.), Bass drum (B.D.).
(3rd Mvt.) Nuts bell (N.B.), 2 Woodblocks (W.B.), Bamboo chimes, Suspended cymbal (S.Cym.), Bass drum (B.D.).