五代同堂 - [Five generations - one house] 




During the time I lived in Beijing, from 2007-2010, I was bought, as a consolation prize for not mastering Mandarin, a yang-qin (butterfly harp), because I had admired it in a shop window. The sight of such a handsome instrument residing at home, unplayed, was a reproach, and so I got a very rigorous teacher who taught me the basics, so I was able to play duets with her, and later even joined in with a traditional ensemble. Strangely it is the one staple instrument of a Chinese opera band that probably originated in Eastern Europe, as it resembles a dulcimer. For a family birthday, I managed to compose and play a piece for my yang-qin, which I later transcribed for piano. I surrounded the piece with satellite pieces, using similar restricted pitches and textures, rather like Satie’s Gymnopédies, to create a small suite. The pieces were composed haphazardly and in no particular order. Because I ended up with five, I allude in the title to the strange inedible fruit, that resembles a lemon with five‐fingers ‐ or an inflated rubber glove ‐ that appears at Chinese New Year to celebrate continuity: Wu Dai Tong Tang: five generations one house – here, five aspects of the same material.

First performed 17 September 2009 by Michelle Yip at Western Academy Concert Hall, Beijing 

Hear WU DAI TONG TANG played by Michelle Yip on Soundcloud

SEE ALSO: WU DAI TONG TANG for String Orchestra, and STRING QUARTET 1.5