Radiant Light (2017)
Commissioned by the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra
For Sheng soloist and Symphony Orchestra
The primary material for the piece comes from the folk song [太阳出来喜洋洋], which originally came from the Southwest region of China and was sung by lumberjacks going up to the mountain in the morning. As with many folk songs, the melody is simple and memorable, consisting of five tones only (Bb, C, Eb, F, G).
Taking the tune as the inspiration, I began to think about how to go about writing this piece. I’ve always wanted to work with Sheng, and since the organizers gave me the freedom to do so, I picked it as my soloist instrument. Its brash sound and polyphonic abilities of the instrument fitted well with the soundworld I had imagined for the piece. Plus, I had never written for sheng before so this would be the perfect opportunity to try new things musically.
The piece begins quietly with slow glissando and woodwind flourishes, conjuring the quiet beauty of the first light. As I was thinking about the form of the piece, the image of the sun rising over the mountains became the catalyst and inspiration. Not only was the sunrise beautiful and ethereal, it has been a signal for the human race to begin work in the day. The music progresses from a place of tranquility to intensity, and then goes back to place of quiet after a short cadenza.
Sinfonia Concertante (2014)
Written for the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra & Dinuk Wijeratne
For percussion section and symphony orchestra
I’ve always loved the power and immediacy of the percussion section, especially in 20th and 21st century orchestral repertoire. As a result, I turned my attention to writing a concerto for the percussion section, which as it turns out, was a very strong section in the NSYO. One month later, Sinfonia Concertante was created after days of frantic work in January 2014.
The piece is in a rough Ternary form, grouped by orchestral bookends in the form a brass chorale. The first section is high energy and intense, growing out of a prolonged Bass Drum rumble from the first percussion. I imagined a sort of ritualistic dance, thus the first minute of music features only percussion playing on repeated patterns. A brass chorale marks the entrance of the full orchestra, which leads us into the exposition. The second section is lyrical and ethereal, featuring solos for the mallets (vibraphone, glockenspiel) and the strings.