Chou Wen-chung

Suite for Harp and Wind Quintet (1951)

In his early works of the 1940’s and 1950’s, Chou was grappling with the challenge of fusing the East and West: how may Chinese material be developed with Western techniques yet remain intrinsically Eastern? The solution is found in the Suite for Harp and Wind Quintet (1951) and the orchestral work Landscapes (1949), composed with the principle which, according to Chou, is to recapture the color, mood and emotion implied in the seemingly simple folk material, by means of its own transmutation without adding whatsoever that is not aurally present in itself.

The principle as applied to this work is: the melodic material generates the structural elements of form, rhythm, sonority and instrumentation. For instance, certain melodic intervals within a phase may be assigned to different registers on particular instruments to achieve the sonorities and colors that are already implied by the melody itself. Thus a change in interval may bring about a concurrent shift in tonality, timbre, register, and color. This work uses as raw material five traditional Chinese melodies (of which three are also used in Landscapes) cast in five continuous movements, each of a contrasting character.

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