Inasmuch as the Korean tradition of chong ak is rooted in Chinese chamber music based on poetic forms of the Tang and Song dynasties, it made sense to re-compose Eternal Pine for extent Chinese instruments from those periods. However, the tonal and performance characteristics of modern Chinese instruments are often different from those of current Korean genres. To preserve the original qualities of a Chinese ensemble of this tradition, the work required reconsideration not only of instrumental techniques but also of all musical issues including linearity, texture and even duration. Above all, as I proceeded in rewriting Eternal Pine, I was more and more reminded of the program notes I wrote for my first composition in 1949, Landscapes:
“I am influenced by the philosophy that governs every Chinese artist, whether he be poet or painter; namely, affinity to nature in conception, allusiveness in expression, and terseness in realization.”
In the process, I was also mindful of the dominant influence of Chinese calligraphy and qin music on all creative processes in the evolution of Chinese culture: namely all dimensions of artistic expression can be projected through seemingly spontaneous moving brush strokes rather than a layered analytical process.
This version is called Sizhu Eternal Pine. Sizhu (silk bamboo) refers to a traditional Chinese chamber music form for wind and string instruments in various regions of China– the most prominent of which is from Jiangnan, in southeast China, where my family was from.
Sizhu Eternal Pine is in seven short sections: Prelude- Exploring the Modes, Meditation on Eternity Part I, Ode to Eternal Pine, Meditation Part II, Lofty Peaks-Profound Gorges, Water Murmuring Over the Rocks, and Codetta: Echoes of the Ode.
Commissioned by the Taipei Chinese Orchestra.
By Chou Wen-chung