NOTES FROM stephen yip



Ding was written for double bass and guzheng. Ding was one of the prehistoric ancient Chinese bronze ritual cauldrons with three or four legs and round or rectangular vessels. It has both historical and cultural significances; possession of ancient dings was often associated with power and dominion over the land. Since the early Bronze Age of China, ding has been symbolized as power. In this piece, there are nine short sections, which implies the “Nine Tripod Cauldrons” (Nine Ding), a symbol of the rule over China by the Zhou dynasty.




Whispering Fragrance was written for solo violin and dedicated to violinist Yu - Fang Chen during its premiere at the 13th Thailand International Composition Festival (2017). This piece was based on the description of nature’s beauty and tries to capture that beauty of singing birds and fragrant flowers. The transparent tone color is made in a slow tempo by continuously moving and mixing various tone color changes. The visual sonority of the descriptive and imaginative materials is comprised of superimposed layers through the perceptible process. The study of sound spectrum and luminous intensity was one of the motivations in composing this piece. I found many interesting ways in searching out several high partial natural harmonics on strings as one of the major elements. There were several performing techniques such as harmonic trills, tremolo, and glissando to explore new sonic resonance capacity on strings was one of the procedures to achieve this transcendent delight, arousing compassion, purity, and understanding



In Seventh Heaven was written for saxophone, double bass, and piano. The content of this piece is not related to religion. The composer wished to bring out a state of happiness, calm and leisure. One of the influences in composing this piece was listening to modern Jazz small ensemble. Besides employing the repetition of some small fragments, there were some short sequences chromatically looping through the sections.



This piece was written for solo guzheng. Ran is a Chinese word, and literally has several meanings including correct, promise, natural, still, and sudden. I tried to employ five different Cantonese homonyms of the word “ran” into five sections:


1. Strings Resonance

2. Continuity

3. Discourse

4. Ablaze

5. Natural Harmony.


Besides the usual performing techniques some other techniques were used such as bowing strings, striking the wood body part, and singing in vowel sound. The use of other techniques was inspired by the traditional Chinese “Silk and Bamboo music” (sizhu music), plucked and bowed strings music, bamboo wind music, and drum/percussion music. In the first section, the use of bowing low string to produce deep stillness and sustain effect lay out dark tone color and harmonic sonority. The next section is a transition which has short musical fragments as simple ideas which build and develop to the third section, “Discourse.” The fragments of the material were just like the many different words to be structured as complete sentences. Those musical sentences were recited like opera’s recitative to express the contents of the music. The fourth section, “Ablaze,” was intended to conclude the musical ideas from the previous section in an energetic way. The fast tempo was suddenly changed and there were different rhythmic patterns continued to establish the intensity in order to achieve the climatic moment. The final section, “Natural” was based on very simple harmonic interval to create calm and tranquility. The sustaining and harmonious sonority were provided “by singing voice, bowing strings and plucking strings.”



Tranquility in Consonance was written for Jay Liu’s solo flute recital in April of 2016. This piece was scored for fl ute, saxophone, bassoon and piano. It was performed with a group featured in the recital. In one of the Chinese cultural heritages, “lunar calendar,” each month has its own particular name and meaning, which provides literary elegance to the calendar. Most of the designations and significances are quite related to nature. The fourth month of the lunar year was called “early summer” and “blossom month.” It has been noted as two Chinese synonyms: the first one 清 means clear, distinct, or pure. The second one 和 means soft, warm, peace, harmony or union. I employed these two words《清 . 和》as the title of this piece. Tranquility in Consonance is a work that features the most natural sound, from its own original or primitive manner. In this single movement piece, it conjures a new sonic environment, of natural airy tones, percussive piano plucking, free sliding tone, and some harmonic voice to capture the beauty of nature. Meanwhile, the music unfolds as more than one voice simultaneously, the interaction of each voice creates its own character and the contrast of the sound is mingles gently with a coalition. Repeating musical gestures and passages were mentioned, always transitory, within a process of continuous change in color and tone, in which to demonstrate the changing of the season and time.



Peace of Mind was written for saxophone (baritone and alto), clarinet (bass and Bb) and piano. Composed in 2014, this is one of the pieces in a series of works where I used musical repetition in multiple endings. There are various free or improvisational performing techniques found in this piece. Different repetition of musical phrases imply a process to access peace of mind. It could be a procedure through many reminders and notices to reach the destination. The suggestion of living meditation and living insight towards the last section of this piece was inspired by the Buddhist belief of relaxing thought to reflect on the human’s own mind to realize peace. The overall effect of this piece is like a landscape with plenty of free playing in time with written musical materials.


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