Chen Yi

About this work:

Commissioned in 2002 by Music From Copland House, with public funds from the Composer’s Commissions program of the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, my mixed ensemble piece Happy Rain on a Spring Night is written for all five instruments in the ensemble: flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, premiered on Oct. 18, 2004 at Merkin Hall in New York. The musical imagination came from an ancient Chinese poem with the same title, written by Du Fu (712-770) in Tang Dynasty. It’s like the welcome rain on a quiet spring night that nurtures the budding seeds, our new society is pushing us forward to the new future. The music reflects the scenes and the expression according to the meaning of the poem when it’s being unfolded line by line. Although the tempo is set 60-70 quarter notes per minute throughout (played vividly, never slow down), the tension is being built up from the quiet background in the beginning, to the sustained climax towards the end. The musical image in Rehearsal A and B (measures 1-41) represents the first four lines of the poem. The woodwind instruments response to the rustling of fast moving notes on muted string triplets, decorated by occasional strokes produced by metallic string sound and high piano gestures. The music in Rehearsal C and D (measures 42-87) represents the next two lines of the poem. It's so dark, a little light in the boat is shimmering on the lake... The breathy key slaps on the flute creates a mysterious atmosphere, in a dialogue with other instruments. The cello glissandi recite the poem in the tone of Mandarin, echoed by the string harmonics. The music in Rehearsal E, F and G (m 88-161) is a toccata, starting with the piano, which builds up a big shape, to reach the climax in m. 116, and keeps the vivid scene towards the coda (Rehearsal H, m. 162-the end), which stands on the energetic peak at the end of the piece. According to the principle of the Golden Section, I have constructed the piece with two large parts (m. 1-115 and m. 116-192+4 since it goes faster). The GS falls onto the beginning of the climax section of the piece, which is loud and energetic. All subdivisions of the structures coincide with the numbers of proportions based on the GS principle. The music has textures changed according to the proportional arrangement throughout the piece. First Part (m. 1-115, total 115 measures), including two sections Section I (m. 1-69, total 69 measures), including two divisions First Division (m. 1-41, total 41 measures), including two subdivisions: Subdivision I (m. 1-25, total 25 measures) Rehearsal A, violin triplets + cello metalic sound in small intervals, followed by woodwinds. Subdivision II (m. 26-41, total 16 measures) Rehearsal B, cello triplets + violin metallic sound in small intervals, overlapped by woodwinds. Second Division (m. 42-69, total 28 measures) Rehearsal C, breathy key slaps on flute, in dark. Section II (m. 70-115, total 46 measures), including two divisions First Division (m. 70-87, total 18 measures) Rehearsal D, soft cello reciting, followed by string harmonics & woodwind “echo” passages. Second Division (m. 88-115, total 28 measures) Rehearsal E, starts to buildup the excitement, with piano toccata in the beginning. When it reaches the patterns on the top of the keyboard, the lowest passages on piano and cello punch in, and review the pitch material with small intervals. Second Part (m.116-192, total 77+4 measures), including two sections Section I (m. 116-161, total 46 measures), including two divisions First Division (m. 116-133, total 18 measures) Rehearsal F, the excitement reaches the climax, GS located. All instruments join in. Second Division (m. 134-161, total 28 measures) Rehearsal G, combination of E and F, continue to buildup. Section II (m. 162-192 + additional senza tempo ending, total 31+ 4 measures) Rehearsal H, coda, keep the excitement on the peak. Happy Rain on a Spring Night by Du Fu (712-770 in Tang Dynasty) Happy rain comes in time, When spring is in its prime. With night breeze it will fall, And quietly moisten all. Clouds darken wild roads, Light brightens a little boat. Saturated at dawn, With flowers blooming the town. (English translation by Chen Yi from the original poem in Chinese)

Version: Mixed quintet
Year composed: 2004
Duration: 00:12:00
Ensemble type: Chamber or Jazz Ensemble, Without Voice:Other Combinations, 2-5 players
Instrumentation notes: Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano. Published by Theodore Presser Company [114-41271].

Chen Yi's profile »