Chou Wen-Chung

Windswept Peaks (May 1989 – June 1990, a consortium commission by the Aeolian Chamber Players) is conceived as a double duo for violin/cello and clarinet/piano. The four parts progress in pairs and are evolved from the same pitch source. Technically, six double modes, each with different ascending and descending orders, transform themselves continually into each other. Four of these are stated simultaneously on all four instruments at any given time. These modes consist of interlocking pitches and reflective intervals. They are, however, defined further by time, register, timbre and loudness, all of which join to shape the progression of each of the parts. The progression of vertical relations is in turn the result of the linear progressions interacting with each other.

These structural principles are based on the philosophy of I Ching, or The Book of Changes. The linear progressions, however, are guided by the concepts of shufa, or the art of calligraphy, according to which pressure, direction, continuity, speed, and viscosity must all be coordinated to propel the flow of ink with desired contour, density and texture. Despite these influences, there is no intention to make the music appear to be “Oriental” or “Chinese.”

The Chinese term for Windswept Peaks, Shan Tao, is an aesthetic expression that is widely used in literature, visual arts, and music — particularly the music for qin, the zither, which greatly influences my musical thoughts. Shan means mountain; tao means “powerful waves.” The cross currents of these waves of sound over mountain peaks can be aesthetically captured by the calligrapher’s brush with as little artificiality as a single limpid stroke. Therefore, again, there is no attempt for Windswept Peaks to “sound” programmatic or descriptive. Instead, as in calligraphy, the goal is to internalize momentous events and emotions into a distilled artistic expression through coordinated flow of the four parts.


  • Clarinet
  • Violin
  • Violoncello
  • Piano


  • Echoes from the Gorge – Music by Chou Wen-Chung

    Echoes from the Gorge – Music by Chou Wen-Chung

    Albany Records, TROY155, 1995. Echoes from the Gorge & Yü Ko (New Music Consort), Yün and Suite for Harp & Wind Quintet (Speculum Musicae), Windswept Peaks (Boston Musica Viva, Richard Pittman, conductor).
  • Tribute to Chou Wen-chung – Pacific Rim Music Festival 2003

    Tribute to Chou Wen-chung – Pacific Rim Music Festival 2003

    Music by his Teacher, his Colleagues and his Distinguished Disciples. Albany Records, TROY 1064/65, 2008. Windswept Peaks (Ensemble Parallele, Nicole Paiement, conductor)

Related Compositions

Site Credits

Spiralis Music Trust

Design — Concentric, Development — Igicom

Kimberly M. Wang, Eardog Productions, the Spiralis Music Trust and public domain.