24 October 2008
Yolanda Kondonassis, harp
Jahja Ling, conductor
San Diego Symphony
San Diego, CA
1. Moonlight Shadows
2. The Drunken Fisher
3. Doctored Pentatonics
Never Far Away was co-commissioned by the San Diego Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. It was written for and dedicated to harpist Yolanda Kondonassis. The premiere performance took place on October 24th, 2008 by the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Jahja Ling. Subsequent performances will be on January 22nd 2009, by the Dallas Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and April 3rd 2009 with the Grand Rapids Symphony, conducted by Bright Sheng.
In linguistics, pidgins and creoles refer to languages developed out of necessity by people who do not share a common tongue in a specific geographic area, a kind of ‘contact language’. At this initial state, the communication (called ‘pidgin’) can be quite simple, only to fulfill the needed verbal interaction. Yet once the language is used long enough, especially when children learn it as their first language, it can develop into an affluent language with a far more complex structure and richer vocabulary—the emergence of a creole.
Sometimes I feel it might be appropriate to apply this linguistic phenomenon to my compositional approach—an evolving musical style, fused from several different ones, expressive enough for me to comfortably and effectively communicate my musical thoughts with the listener, while each musical creole is personal, depending on the sources from which it was drawn.
Moonlight Shadows is inspired by a Chinese folk song on a young girl’s longing, under the moonlight, for her far-away lover.
The Drunken Fisher is inspired by a Chinese classical instrumental work, of the same title, written for qin, a seven-string zither, portraying a tipsy fishman’s sentiments returning home at the sunset while rowing a fishing boat.
A three-note pentatonic motif is used in different ways throughout the third movement, therefore the title—Doctored Pentatonics.
Never Far Away is a reference to an old saying:
If your native culture is still the inspiration of your work, you are never far away from your motherland.
— Bright Sheng