Composer: Kay (Yuanyuan) HE
Pianist: Josh Straub
The harmony language of this piece is based on, but not limited to, Chinese pentatonic scales. Also, different combinations of timbre and extended techniques of the piano are developed in the piece. All of these are my attempt to describe the Chinese culture and how a western musical instrument can present this culture. I use piano extended techniques, such as key muting, gliss over muted keys, pluck inner string, and so on to imitate the performance technique and timbre of the Chinese traditional instruments Zheng and Qin (Chinese Lyre). The voice of Zheng is loud, clear, and stirring, and is used to please audience’s ears. In contrast, the voice of Qin is gentle, deep, and dignified, and used to please poet/composer’s heart.
A Chinese Zenic idea, “Flowers in the Mirror, Moon on the Water,” inspired this piece. It means ideal, pure, transparent, tranquil, and peaceful manner, which is the highest level of Zenic enlightenment and beauty. But, this “Flowers in the Mirror, Moon on the Water” was also used in one of the “four great” Chinese novels, The Story of the Stone (A Dream of Red Chamber), to summarize the emptiness of life. Everything is endlessly changing, which is the result of changes in heart and environment. I tried to mix these different ideas in this piece.
Kay (Yuanyuan) HE began learning piano at age 5. At age 15, she began studying composition at the affiliated middle school of Shenyang Conservatory of China. As a double major undergraduate, Kay He studied with Tang Jianping in composition at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing (CCOM), and with Zhang Xiaofu at the Conservatory’s Center for Electroacoustic Music of China (CEMC). The winner of a Snow Scholarship, Kay He completed her Master’s degree in composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). While at UMKC, she studied under Dr. Zhou Long, Dr. Chen Yi, Dr. Paul Rudy and Dr. James Mobberley. Besides music, she also learned to paint at the UMKC Department of Art and Fine Arts. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree in composition (DMA) at the University of Texas at Austin, studying under Dr. Dan Welcher, Dr. Russell Pinkston, Dr. Donald Grantham, and Dr. Yevgeniy Sharlat.
As a young composer, Kay has won many composition awards in the U.S. and abroad. Her piece On the Threshold of a Drizzly Reality was selected for 2014 performances at the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC) in Athens, Greece and the Root Signals music festival in Jacksonville, Florida; her piano trio Shadow of Dewdrops was selected for Gamma UT music festival in 2014; the orchestra piece Legends of Old Peking won the Seattle Symphony’s Celebrate Asia Composition in 2012; Dying Away won the 2011 DuoSolo Emerging Composer Competition; Destiny of the Sputnik was chosen in the 2011 Beijing Modern Music Festival Young Composers Project, and many other pieces have won awards or competitions in other parts of the world.