The initial concept of Unfading Echoes is to combine the elements of both Western and Eastern music in a profound way; the violin and the Chinese fiddle—“erhu,” are used to symbolize the two cultures. The erhu—a Chinese traditional instrument—is normally tuned to D4 and A4, which is the same as the two middle strings of the violin. Comparing its timbre with the violin’s, the erhu emphasizes higher overtones; its fundamental is weaker than some of the partials, which gives its sound a nasal quality. The traditional Chinese piece for the erhu, “The Moon Reflected in Er-quan,” which is often considered one of the most important masterpieces in China, inspired this work in various respects. In small scale, its pitches, melodic contour, and its rhythms are thoroughly utilized in Unfading Echoes; in larger scale, the ways of varying theme, the slow pace, the ambiguous edges between sections/phrases have also considerably influenced the design of this piece.
The piece can be divided into three major sections (see table 1 & figure 1). Proportionally, the sum of section I and II is roughly equal to section III; the overall plan also suggests that the contour design reflects quasi-symmetry.
The timbral evolution, mainly established by the tape, includes two phases. From the beginning to 11’30” is a progress of tape splitting from the violin as its extension and eventually draws emphasis on the attack sound, which finally accumulates to white noises. The second phase starts after the violinist’s cadenza at 13’17”, where the tape shifts its function from a violin’s follower or competitor to a main character.
Finally, the two detuned strings at the beginning are designed to relate to the open strings of the erhu. The unusual tuning gives listeners a clue which remains unsolved until its reoccurrence at the end when the intro phrase of The Moon Reflected in Er-quan becomes the closing phrase of the whole piece. The idea corresponds to the sense of infinity in Chinese esthetics—endless cycles.
|Commitee:||DeLio, Thomas, Fry, James, Gulick, Denny, Wilson, Mark E., Zimmerman, Daniel|
|School:||University of Maryland, College Park|
|School Location:||United States -- Maryland|
|Source:||DAI-A 72/09, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Chinese fiddle, Erhu, Original composition, Violin|
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