Beijing in the Mist was composed for Jacques D’Amboise as one of the dances he choreographed for “China Dig,” National Institute’s Event of the Year, presented at the Felt Forum on June 2, 1986, with Lee Norris conducting. Chou and D’Amboise began the collaboration on this event in 1985, involving more than fifteen hundred American children and fifty-six children from the People’s Republic of China. The latter’s participation was arranged by the Center for US-China Arts Exchange.
The two artists developed some of the basic ideas together and collaborated specifically on the dance entitled “Beijing Dust.” D'Amboise’s interest in marrying incongruous elements and juxtaposing the profound with the frivolous is revealed in his choice of titles for individual dances. The first act, for example, includes titles borrowed from Chinese cuisine, such as “Dumplings,” “Phoenix Nest” and “Beijing Dust.” Beijing Dust is a Chinese dessert made from mashed chestnuts. Because of its dusty hue, it is named after the severe wind storms from the Gobi Desert.
Chou changed the title of the composition to Beijing in the Mist to suggest “a veiled and fractured impression of an ancient city with sharply-etched contours.” It is also a musical portrait of an ancient China filtered through the mist. To this end, fragments of nine great instrumental pieces from China’s past are elaborated and superimposed on each other.
The unusual instrumentation, dictated by D’Amboise’s orchestra, consists of alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar, electric bass, electric piano, acoustic piano, and percussion. The completion of the score on February 24, 1986 coincided with the victorious uprising against the Marcos regime. The score thus bears the following dedication: “To the courageous people of the Philippines.”