:  2222/4231/Timp/Strings
Duration:                  6 minutes
Year:                          2013

Program Notes

    Exiled (2013) was inspired by the stories surrounding the Asian legend of the 18 songs of a Nomad Flute.   It is a work that portrays the narrative of the well-known 8th century poem while celebrating the universal qualities of hope, strength and imagination in the face of loss.  Taking the theme from the original Chinese tune, Exiled is a tone poem for orchestra.

The Poem:

     The poem is by Chinese poet Liu Shang, and dates from as early as the 8th century.  It tells the story of the abduction of Cai Wenji, a Chinese lady of aristocratic origins who was captured by the invading Mongols at the end of the Han Dynasty in 195 AD.   According to the 18 stanza first person account, she was kidnapped and forced to be the wife of the Mongol warlord, bearing him 2 children.  Eventually, she was ransomed and returned to China after twelve years of captivity.  The poem is full of nostalgia and mourning, and is vivid in its descriptions of her inner turmoil as she struggles between her bitterness towards the Mongols and a new found love for her children.  She was forced to choose between the people she had come to know as family, and her true homeland.

Not only was the scroll inspired by the poem, several Chinese musicians were inspired by the poetry to create melodies based on these events.  Although there have been several versions of melodies based on 18 Songs of a Nomad Flute, the most well known originates from qin player Dong Tinglan (b. 695 – ca. 765), who wrote the tablature to Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai (18 Songs of a Nomad Flute).

The original work was performed on solo Reed Pipe without accompaniment.  Similar to the poem, the folk tune is divided into 18 sections that adhere to the structure of the poem.

 Thematically divided into three, the first section of the piece features the solo clarinets and flute singing above the orchestra, depicting a lush and beautiful land about which she is dreaming.  Upon reaching a majestic climax with the strings taking up a variation on the folk tune (mm.29 – 36), the second section departs from the lush and romantic landscape to portray the war and terror that underlies the dream.  Here the brass punctuates the dissonant accompaniment led by the strings in a grotesque dance (mm.47-), while the original melody is thrown back and forth by the woodwinds, violins, and trumpets (mm. 56-71).  Finally, the original melody emerges from the chaos, taken up by a solo bassoon (mm.78).  The piece closes on an optimistic note, as the flute returns to sing the tune one last time (mm.101) before the dream disappears into the distance.


  • Mar 26, 2014, University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra
    Boyd Neel Hall, Reading Session, Toronto, ON, Canada
    Gary Kulesha conducting

Score and Parts

Please contact the composer here for score and/or part rentals.

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