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Instrumentation: 1 2 1 1 - 0 3 2 0 - 3 perc - hp - str 

Full orchestral version available for "Scenes at the Uralsk Fair" (Second Movement): 2 2 2 2 - 4 2 2 1 - 3 perc - hp - str

Duration: 14'

Movements: Movement I "The Great Steppe", Movement II "Scenes at the Uralsk Fair" 

Performance History: 

Movement I "The Great Steppe"

Feb 10, 2021. Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan. 

University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Aleksandr Polyakov, cond. 


Movement II "Scenes at the Uralsk Fair"

Jul 24, 2021. Benedict Music Tent, Aspen Music Festival.

Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra, Kyle Ritenauer, cond.

Movement II "Scenes at the Uralsk Fair" 

Mar 7, 2023. Hayes Hall, Artis-Naples, Florida.

Naples Philharmonic, Radu Paponiu, cond.



2021 ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award from University of Michigan


2022 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award





















































Program Note:

Nomadic Trails for chamber orchestra (2021) is a symphonic work in two movements inspired by the nomadic culture of Uly Dala, the Great Steppe, and traditional Kazakh music. In this orchestral work, I blend my musical language with re-constructions and re- interpretations of thematic materials from various well-known küis (solo compositions of oral tradition composed for and performed on the Kazakh instrument, Dombyra). I also explore how different spatial references and historical milieus of the Central Asian nomadic culture can be reflected in a composition written for Western orchestra, and investigate how extra-musical cultural referents, such as Kazakh legends, petroglyphs, and traditional ornaments, can influence the structures and textures of a musical piece. 


The first movement, “The Great Steppe,” composed in a collage-like form of mini- sections, is inspired by Kazakh legends and petroglyphs, all of which unveil the nomadic stories of the past. The 6-minute movement features melodic quotations taken from three küis: Köroğlu by Dauletkerey, and Qyzyl Qaiyn and Adai by Kurmangazy. Each of the themes in this symphonic medley appear in a kaleidoscopic manner and bring in a different mood, color, tempo and texture. Blurring the borders between abstract and concrete, “The Great Steppe” leaves space to allow the listener to create their own imaginary landscapes.


The second movement, “Scenes at the Uralsk Fair,” depicts a celebration of life at a town fair. It is based on the motivic elaborations and de-constructions of thematic materials taken from the küi, Nauai/Nauysky, composed by Dina Nurpeisova, a female Küishi. The complex structure of this contrasting 8-minute movement is an amalgamation of the rondo and variations forms, which strikes a resemblance with the repetitive yet varying structures of Kazakh traditional ornaments. The movement is unified by its fast- moving tempo, syncopated rhythmic patterns and strong pulse that culminates into a whirlwind of vigorous, volcanic bursts describing the bustling atmosphere of the Kazakh town fair.

-- Meilina Tsui


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