Chou Wen-chung

Echoes from the Gorge (Notation)

From the program notes of Echoes from the Gorge, composed in 1989. [continued]


Note Values and Accents

The rhythmic structure of this score is not based on meter, but on permutations of six rhythmic modes, which in turn are based on permu tations of the durational ratios of 3:2:1 and their aggregates. The interrelationship among the four parts is dependent on the groupings, accents, and rests evolved out of those ratios.


All tempi in this score are derived from the same basic ratios and are expressed in the following two interlocked sets of metric relations:

However, the given metronome marks are suggestsions serving as a guide only.

( = ad lib.)

mm. 133-144, the eighth rest following each quarter note is a brief rest of free value, with the given metronome mark serving as a guide only — the function being to delay the following quarter note, and give time to the attack(s) of the preceding quarter note to resonate and impact on the listener’s mind before the attack(s) of the subsequent quarter note (i.e., the effect of echoes). The result is similar to that of a fermata, but varying from poco to lunga as the case may be, at the discretion of the performer.


All grace notes are indicated with upward stems; all measured notes are indicated with downward stems.

grace-note(s) to be played at the beginning of the note-value given, except in mm. 199-213 where the grace-note(s) preceding an accented note is/are to be played before the beat
grace-note(s) to be played at the end of the given note value

Repeated Grace-notes

repeated grace-notes played at increasing speed, number of attacks at the player’s discretion
repeated grace-notes played at decreasing speed, number of attacks at the player’s discretion

Cadenza Passages

dotted vertical lines indicate approximate entrances for each part, written with grace-notes, in cadenza-like passages. Grace-notes are of unspecified but swift speed, and must not be played metrically

Tremolos and Measured Rolls

tremolo to be played as fast as possible
measured roll played at speed indicated by the note value
measured roll played at increasing speed as indicated
measured roll played at decreasing speed as indicated

Dynamic Marks

All dynamic marks are conservative and serve as a guide for relative loudness only. Actual levels must be evaluated at rehearsals according to the instruments and the hall.

Structural and textural designs of the piece, however, demand a generally subtle, restrained, and non-sustaining dynamic level. Damping may be done liberally according to dynamic need, but never dampen suddenly. Partial damping at articulations, if needed, should be considered where adequate time is available.

Dynamic marks for a specific instrument remain in force until a new dynamic mark is given. Crescendo and diminuendo signs are independent of dynamic marks. When such a sign is not preceded or followed immediately by a dynamic, the previously given dynamic remains in effect after the crescendo or diminuendo. When the degree of crescendo or diminuendo or a combination of both is not specified with dynamic marks, such signs indicate nuances to be executed according to contexts and in coordination with the other parts.

Structure and Expression vs. Notation

The structural coherence and expressive values of this score depend on the constant contrapuntal relations of the four parts in the following simultaneous progressions:

  1. register (i.e., instruments, sticks, and contact locations);
  2. timbre (same as above);
  3. articulation (sticks, locations, and dynamics);
  4. duration (note values and rests);
  5. rhythmic modal permutation (accents, note values, and rests);
  6. loudness (dynamics, instruments, sticks, and contact locations);
  7. ascending-descending relations (registers);
  8. advancing-receding relations (accents, rests, and dynamics); and
  9. imagery of nature (subtitles of the twelve sections and sound characteristics as defined by notational instructions).

To project this multi-layered interplay requires meticulous coordination of all specifications notated for each part singly, and for all four parts collectively.

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