Night Song (2010)
for High Voice and Piano
Commissioned by Wei-Tsung Fu
January 11, 2018
Lecture Recital, International Conference of Performing and Visual Arts
Bilik Seminar 1, Cultural Centre, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Jin Hin Yap, tenor; Feng-Hsu Lee, piano
Duration: 8 minutes
Night Song is a vocal piece commissioned by Wei-Tsung Fu, a good friend of mine. We studied at National Taiwan Normal University and participated in YinQi Chorus together. He was also a winner of Taipei Chinese Art Song Competition in 2009 and asked me to compose a new Chinese song for him to perform in the winner concert in 2011.
The lyrics of Night Song are from a poem written by Chen Li, who was inspired by Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 7, yet this poem also mentions about a Taiwanese folksong, Plow Song. As a result, I decided not only to quote these two pieces, but also to use the last half of the second movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 as a structural guide for the whole piece. I used the juxtaposed composition technique to deal with the quotations, and I follow the Mahler and Chen Li’s structure while maintaining my own musical voice. The integrating process creates an eccentric and unique atmosphere, which is particularly interesting to me. Lastly, I would like to thank Mr. Chen Li for kindly allowing me to compose this piece based on his poem.
Night Song by Chen Li
By the mailbox on the street corner
I stop my car, turn off the engine, and doze for a while.
In front are glimmering traffic lights;
the sea we know well is at a short distance.
I doze on the street waiting for my daughter
to walk out of the piano room of the college after her lesson.
When I left home, my VCR was recording
Mahler’s Song of the Night. The laborious
long day will be rewound and repeated tomorrow.
Several mosquitoes fly into the car
biting an exhausted human body in the dark :
the mosquitoes of Hualien biting this native
of Hualien is like the tide biting at the beach
leaving temporary marks.
Like music streaming through the sky
and disappearing soon after, we cannot tell
which part is Mahler’s, and which part
the plow song, which part is this life
of ours, and which the afterlife of others.
The sea we are familiar with is a giant package
which is packed with our dreams, with
music boxes scattered on the beach like shells
and repeatedly delivers itself at the same spot.
The mailer’s address is the receiver’s.
My body, stamped by mosquitoes,
is a package in a package, hidden in the car
box and awaiting the sea wind not far away
to blow it into the mailbox on the street corner.
English Translated by Chang Fen-ling
– Feng-Hsu Lee (November 16, 2010 West Hartford, CT)