Chou Wen-chung

Pien (Notation)

From the program notes of Pien, composed in 1966. [continued]


Only 6 gradations are used. Consequently very sharp contrast (loudness discrepancy) must be achieved between the adjacent grades. The result should be of a terraced character (except in cases of crescendo and diminuendo, naturally):

ppp is used only in the percussion parts to indicate an imperceptible start of a crescendo.


Symbol Explanation
very heavy accent
heavy but short (secco)
sharp accent (regular)
very dry staccato
tenuto-attack with weight but not accent
slur: very legato — noticeable portamento preferred


Bend, downward pitch, and vibrato

should be executed evenly with subtlety and restraint, and strictly within a semitone.

Tone Quality

Except for legato phrases, where the use of vibrato is at the player’s discretion, and wherever a slow and wide vibrato is indicated, the tone quality should always be as “thin” and “cutting” as possible, i.e., avoid the usual blend of “rich” and “diffused” quality.

Page 2 of 2