Ode to Eternal Pine is based on material from Eternal Pine commissioned by the Contemporary Music Ensemble of Korea (CMEK) for an ensemble of traditional Korean instruments. It is composed in the spirit and style of chong ak, the ancient Korean chamber music, retaining its tempo, meter, and modal characteristics with emphasis on the fluidity of instrumental voices rather than exploitation of novel colors.
Chong ak is dedicated to the expression of human emotion inspired by natural phenomena but projected with serenity and dignity. In East Asian cultures, the pine tree, often seen on mountain peaks, is a symbol of longevity and the eternity of nature. “Meditating on Eternity” is a reflection on the fundamental aesthetic principle of East Asia, as expressed in the Chinese terms tian di ren, heaven, earth and humanity. It suggests human emotion within the timelessness of the universe and the physical constraints on earth, the two axes symbolized by the subsequent movements, “Lofty Peaks” and “Profound Gorges.”
The original thematic material and its development in each of the movements are continual transformations of a nuclear idea introduced after the brief Prelude. It is structured according to my variable mode principle, which enables the music not only to transform itself but also to adapt itself from one tonal format to another, such as pentatonic or chromatic.
Ode to Eternal Pine was commissioned by the New York New Music Ensemble and dedicated to Elliott Carter.
By Chou Wen-chung