SIX MINIATURE PIECES OF YIN AND YANG FOR TWO PIANOS (2016)
Instrumentation: two pianos
Commissioner: Hong Kong Arts Development Council
World Premiere: This piece was premiered at St. John’s Smith Square in London, United Kingdom by the Nancy Loo & Mary Wu Piano Duo at 2017 ‘Hong Kong Music Series’ Opening Concert in celebration of the HKSAR’s 20th anniversary.
Interlude: Music Interflow – A Dialogue of Two Cultures, July 5, 2017.
Classical Iconoclast: Music Interflow - Hong Kong Music Series SJSS, July 8, 2017.
Six Miniature Pieces of Yin and Yang for two pianos (2016) is a 12-minute suite inspired by Chinese (Taoist) philosophy and its concept of dualities, Yin and Yang. The Duet is an exploration of the different ways of creating striking contrasts between the opposing elements within the three dualities: water and fire; earth and air; dark and light. The focus was on creating the most coloristic, dynamic depictions of the elements, vivacity of which could provoke an immediate auditory result through hearing this piece of non- esoteric music: perceiving some certain imageries by a listener. The aim was an artistic vision/ observation of the six elements and depiction of the feelings it provokes, and not a mere sound stylization. Although the length of each of the six miniatures was limited to two minutes, each element is shown not in its static form but rather in development, depicting its different, opposing sides. This involves changes, often rather sudden, in thematic, rhythmic, harmonic, and textural material. The work is an exploration of the descriptive abilities of the piano, as one of the most versatile polyphonic instruments, by the ways of experimenting with its timbre color, register, texture, dynamics, and pedaling in creating a set of highly contrasted mini- pieces. The instrumentation was chosen in conjunction with the central idea of duality, and also to enhance the sonority. The piano duo is written in a conventional pianistic manner, with no inside piano requirements.
I. ‘Water’: The main technique, rapid staccato repetitions of the same note in the high register, enhanced by the grace notes and the minor 7th/minor 6th leaps, describes the raindrops. The change comes at bar 25, where the repetitions suddenly get interrupted by the whirling passages and the pulse becomes more fluid and the atmosphere more lyrical.
II. ‘Fire’: The wide keyboard range, spanning from the very low to the high register, allows much movement and freedom for expressing the rage, frenetic excitement and anergy. The wildfire, characterized by the strong chords and boisterous glissandos, organized by the vigorous beat, change to the rapid repetition and doubling of the staccato notes (cracking fire), and later to the ascending and descending linear passages (smoke) over sonorous chords. At last, the contrary- motion rapid triplets vanishing into the thin air depict the fading flames.This piece is distinctive by the use of explosive mixed-interval chords and for its zestfulness overall.
III. ‘Earth’: The quartal and quintal chords create the atmosphere of solidness, stateliness, and mysticism. Six-octave span brings out the feeling of a huge space and grandiosity; the persistent hammering of a chord reflects heaviness and ponderosity; occasionally there are
imageries of the outbursts of lava. The overall harmonic language of Earth is simple and straightforward.
IV. ‘Air’: Spontaneous semi and demisemiquaver gestures create an illusion of a free air movement compromised by the stillness of the sustained chords. The change comes at bar 112 when the regular semiquaver figurations start flowing against the un-rushed movement of the bass notes in octaves. Some splashes of the rapid passages and returning of the gestures with the diminished and augmented octaves end the piece.
V. ‘Dark’: This mostly explores the low and lowest registers of the piano with the parallel 5ths, octaves, and some not very dense chords, combined with the recitative-like melodic lines in the opposite piano.
VI. ‘Light’: Sudden outburst of ringing trills in a very high part of both pianos mark this last piece of the whole set. Excessive use of the trills and grace notes combines with the rapid reiterations of the sustained harmonies. Deliberate usage of the very high notes without adjusting them to a more conventional height (e.g. transposing them down by octave and adding the 8ve—— sign) serves the purpose of creating imagery of a high space in where the light dwells.
-- Meilina Tsui