Chou Wen-chung

Excerpts from “Towards a Re-Merger in Music”

An interview on WBAI radio, New York, 1965. Published in Contemporary Composers on Contemporary Music, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967.

Like the Chinese calligrapher and painter, I have always regarded the technique of a composer as a spontaneous manifestation of his gradually crystallizing esthetic concepts. This is perhaps in agreement with the Confucian concept: Music is “born of emotion”; tones are the “substance of music;” melody and rhythm are the “appearance of tones.” Greatness of music lies not in “perfection of artistry” but in attainment of “spiritual power inherent in nature.”

I was influenced by the same philosophy that guides every Chinese artist, be he poet, painter or musician; affinity to nature in conception, allusiveness in expression, and terseness in realization.

Consequently, in the late fifties, I became more and more interested in the principles that are best demonstrated by the art of Chinese calligraphy, in which the controlled flow of ink — through the interaction of movement and energy, the modulation of line and texture — creates a continuum of motion and tension in a spatial equilibrium.

The conception of this work [Metaphors] is influenced by the philosophy of I Ching or the Book of Changes, the foundation of which is a system of eight symbolic images (kua). Each of these images is a trilinear arrangement of the two polar opposites, the yin and the yang, represented by a broken (--) and unbroken (—) line, respectively. These images represent the continually transforming forces that germinate all in the universe. The images interact with each other in a state of perpetual transformation and superimposition. The interplay of the images at any specific moment signifies a unique but predictable situation in the constancy of nature — the changing microcosm in the unchanging macrocosm. The meaning of these composite images is interpreted through metaphors, hence the title of my composition.

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