HUANG RUO (b.1976): Shattered Steps for Chinese Folk-Rock Voice and Orchestra (Huang Rui [voice]), 2 excerpts from the Opera An American Soldier for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra (Guang Yang [mezzo]), for Orchestra: 4 Folk Songs, Becoming Another, 2 Pieces, Still/Motion.
Catalogue Number: 07W067
Description: The New York domiciled Chinese composer grew up and received his education in China at a time of increased openness to Western influences, so he studied both traditional and Western music at conservatory, and absorbed "Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky, and Lutoslawski, the Beatles, rock and roll, heavy metal, Chinese ancient and folk music, Western avant-garde, experimental, noise, natural and processed sound". These strong and eloquent orchestral works are nothing like the bewildering mélange that that might suggest; perhaps his works in other genres are more eclectic. Shattered Steps resembles a continuous pathway, travelled restlessly and at speed, made up of 'shattered' thematic fragments. The composer introduces the theme "improvised and sung with a made-up language in the Chinese folk-rock ... recorded as two different tracks with my own vocal improvisation." - strange to Western ears, highly rhythmic and unlike Western folk-rock. After this, the piece is a high-energy, propulsive orchestral toccata, with some emulation of the timbres of Chinese ensemble music. Becoming Another, a decade more recent and more 'western' in its sonorities, is an impressive soundscape, illustrating the ancient Chinese saying "Becoming and exchanging of yin and yang to create all things". Cast as one long phrase, it begins in the tenebrous depths of the orchestra and rises inexorably, crowned with fanfares, to dizzying heists, where it evaporates. Still/Motion draws inspiration from Chinese Opera and Chinese Court Music, Still bears from the Tang Dynasty Court Music - "Noble Music"in Chinese, and Motion, which focuses on rhythm, inspired by the "Fast Steps" and "Intense Beats" rhythm in Chinese Opera. The first part is built of static, towering blocks; Motion, the second part, is propulsive, with almost a post-minimalistic feel, in insistent repeated gestures which tend to be fragments of pentatonic scales. Two Pieces, the earliest work here (1999-2000) seems to show the composer coming to terms with western avant-gardism (scarcely the outer reaches thereof, though). Fanfare is a bold, massive, raucous opening gesture, while Announcement is solemn and ceremonial, based on a Chinese folk song. The appealing folk song transcriptions are sumptuously harmonized in western harmonies; the third is a moving concertante piece for violin, and the last a lively dance, in which the composer may have taken some liberties with the jazzy, syncopated rhythms. Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra; Liang Zhang.