Chen Yi

About this work:

Chen Yi:

Three Dances From China South for dizi, erhu, pipa, and zheng  (2014)

  1. Lions Playing Ball              
  2. Bamboo Dance                  
  3. Lusheng Dance             

My chamber ensemble work Three Dances From China South is commissioned by Music From China to celebrate its 30th anniversary, and scored for Chinese traditional instruments dizi, erhu, pipa, and zheng, The commission has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund. The world premiere is given at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall in New York City, on November 21, 2014. My Three Dances From China South is dedicated to Susan Cheng, the founder and Executive Director of Music From China, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of MFC.


There are three movements in my Three Dances From China South for dizi, erhu, pipa, and zheng. The material in the first movement Lions Playing Ball is drawn from a folk tune played in the accompanying ensemble for the folk dance under the same title in Chaozhou region in Guangdong province. The image of the folk dance is vivid and entertaining. The movement includes several variations on the theme. The variation methods are inspired by the various rhythmic patterns used in the traditional ensemble playing. The melodic material features a special mode with a triton interval taken from the folk tune. There are also lyrical sections with polyphonic layers in the variations.


The music in the second movement is inspired by the folk Bamboo Dance, which is popular in Li minority people from Hainan Island in the south.  The aged old folk dance is for ritual ceremony and harvest celebration in the history, in which there are pairs of people holding the ends of the long bamboo rods and clapping them loudly in stable pulse, for groups of dancers to dance between the bamboo shapes on the floor, in musical rhythms and ensemble patterns. A musical motive with a jumping interval and articulation is used throughout the movement.


The third movement is called Lusheng Dance. I have witnessed the folk dance performance of the Dong minority people in Guangxi province in the 1980’s. The exciting scene inspired me to imitate the large lusheng ensemble playing style in my ensemble of four Chinese instrumental musicians without using the sheng (a wind instrument with metal pipes that is popular in concert music, and similar to the folk lusheng). On top of the rhythmic patterns, I imitated a two-voice folk song of Zhuang minority people in the same province. The melody is played by the leading erhu and dizi.

Version: for dizi, erhu, pipa, and zheng
Year composed: 2014
Duration: 00:12:00
Ensemble type: Chamber or Jazz Ensemble, Without Voice
Instrumentation notes: Chinese traditional instruments dizi, erhu, pipa, and zheng

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