Chou Wen-chung

Cursive (Notation)

From the program notes of Cursive, composed in 1962.

“Cursive” refers to the type of script in which the joined strokes and rounded angles result in expressive and contrasting curves and loops.

The cursive script represents the essence in the art of Chinese calligraphy as its expressiveness depends solely upon the spontaneous but controlled flow of ink which, through the brush-strokes, projects not only fluid lines in interaction but also density, texture and poise.

These qualities, translated into musical terms, are often found in the music for wind and string instruments of the East. In this score, the cursive concept has influenced the use of specified but indefinite pitches and rhythm, regulated but variable tempo and dynamics, as well as various timbres possible on the two instruments.

The work was composed at the suggestion of Harvey Sollberger and Charles Wuorinen, who gave its first performance at McMillin Theater, New York City. The fingerings for microtones given in the score are provided by Mr. Sollberger, who was also consulted on the flute notation.

Symbols for Flute

Symbol Explanation
slap the key simultaneously with the attack of the note
vibrato in fast speed and narrow amplitude
vibrato in slow speed and wide amplitude
no vibrato
from no-vibrato increase to fast-narrow vibrato, then decrease to no-vibrato
lower the pitch microtonally by rolling the instrument
attack the note noticeably higher in pitch and then roll back the instrument to the given pitch
slow trill on the given note alternating with the harmonic (slightly lower in pitch) on the same note as indicated by the fingering given in the fingering chart
trill at normal speed with the lower neighbor microtone as indicated by the fingering given on the fingering chart
microtonal glissando up (or down) a semitone by rolling the instrument
microtonal glissando up (or down) and back by rolling the instrument

Symbols for Piano

Symbol Explanation
stop the string near the bridge
tap the string near the bridge
pluck the string with the fingernail near the bridge
glissando on the strings from the given note down (or up) all the strings of the compartment
grace note to be attacked at the beginning of the given note value
grace note to be played at the end of the given note value
slowly release the pedal to half position to bring about a swelling in volume from the vibrating strings
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