Chou Wen-chung

Riding the Wind (1964)

The title of this work is a quotation from Lieh Tzu, the Taoist philosopher, who once wrote:

I am borne east and west
like a dry leaf torn from a tree.
I do not know whether
the wind is riding on me or I the wind.

Calligraphy by Chou.This state of sublimation describes the attainment of purification of the mind that is present at the moment of performing the art of brush calligraphy: a seemingly spontaneous but controlled flow of ink on paper in a fluid interplay of movement and energy, of density and texture.

As in air current or calligraphy, Riding the Wind is entirely based on the integration of all the physical phenomena in sound generation: timbre, register, duration, intensity, articulation and termination. All these interact with or permeate one another linearly, spatially, in sonority and in speed to generate structure, form and expression.

It is one of the earliest works based on my concept of pien (variable) modes, evolved out of my commitment to integrate musical concepts and practices from around the world and in history, and to sustain the central Chinese principle that all arts media share the same aesthetics in transforming feelings into philosophical thoughts.

Riding the Wind is unique among my works, being the purest, the most abstract and transparent application of the pien modes theory. The quotation for its title was obviously chosen with autobiographical references as well. It was composed in 1964, commissioned by the American Wind Symphony Orchestra.

Page 1 of 2