Commissioned by Oliver Zeffman for the opera film 'Eight Songs from Isolation' directed by Billy Boyd Cape
Unavailable for performance.
Every Grass a Spring was originally scored for Bass-baritone, pipa, and sheng, with electronics playback. For the ensemble version, the pipa has multiple tracks. For live performances, it is optional to play the second pipa line.
In the spring of 2020, the pandemic was raging around the world. The bass-baritone Shenyang told me a British group was reaching out to me for a request. I would then learn, on the phone with Oliver Zeffman, that he would commission eight pairings of composers and singers around the world to produce an opera film on the subject of human isolation which was to be filmed simultaneously in different locations. I didn’t agree at first, as there had already been so many pieces created about the pandemic. Surely, I did not need to contribute yet one more.
I have a good friend named Yang Nan, a young journalist. We knew each other from her interview with me, and a great friendship ensued. She is conscientious, hardworking, and her writing is bold and on point. When Wuhan was in lockdown in January 2020 she asked to be stationed there, reporting on the frontline workers and the families of patients. She stayed there for several months until the city reopened. All the while, I followed closely her series of articles on the pandemic in the Southern People Weekly. What was the most unforgettable was how the poeticism of mundane daily life in Yang Nan’s writing paralleled her reporting on the hard reality which the city and the people were facing. The saying, “every grass, a spring,” was told to her by an elderly person admitted into the ER with the coronavirus. On the day Wuhan reopened, April 8, 2020, Yang Nan wrote, there she was, sitting in the taxi, the driver sharing his favorite music with her, and he suggested to her that after all that she had seen at the hospital that she take in the sunrise before leaving Wuhan. Out of the taxi window, there were groups of people watching the cherry blossoms. This was almost a month after New York City began its own full lockdown. For the next few months, the only sound I would hear out of my New York apartment windows was hospital sirens and helicopters whizzing by: the soundtrack of the city for the next few months.
When New York City lifted its lockdown in summer 2020, the first shift was that the sounds of the city thrived once again. So many more voices on the street. On my nightly walks, excited tears would fill my eyes.
When I came back from a walk that night, I thought of Oliver’s request, and felt there should be a voice from China in the film. I texted Oli and said I would only compose for this film if I could invite two more Chinese musicians. Oli said yes. So, I asked the pipa player Wu Man and sheng player Wu Wei, whose artistry I respect and admire massively to participate. They accepted quite enthusiastically. There we were, each in our own place. Shenyang, Wu Man, Wu Wei, Oli’s team, and I started the rehearsals and the film shootings in Shanghai, California, New York, Berlin, and London respectively, at the same time. The film-opera, Eight Songs from Isolation, was released at the end of September 2020.
I hope this is not a work du jour. I hope we will continue to see bountiful, wonderful things together, and listen to endless various sounds. For that it would be spectacular to go on living.
— Du Yun
Spring of 2021, by the East River, NYC
那晚散步回来，我想到这题材， 一定还是要有中国的声音。所以拿起电话，说可以写，但一定得让我用中国乐器。很快，邀请来了琵琶演奏家吴蛮老师和笙演奏家吴巍老师 ------ 都是我喜欢和敬仰的音乐家 ---- 他们一口答应。于是我们四人和Oliver的团队开启了同时在上海（沈洋）、南加州（吴蛮）、柏林（吴巍）、纽约 （我）、和伦敦（后期）的排练和录影摄像。这部作品收录于影像歌剧, 《八首隔离之歌》，发行于2020年9月末。
杜韵，于 2021年春， 纽约市东河边。
词：杜韵 / 杨楠
录音 / 混音： Brett Cox
影像导演： Billy Boyd Cape