Updates from my composition studio – 17 April 2013

A few days ago I finished my little piece for clarinet quartet, Près de l’Abîme, written for performance in Assisi, Italy in July this year, by Concinnity Clarinet Quartet.  The piece is dedicated to my former clarinet teacher in my undergraduate years, Patricia Shands.

The following is the program notes for this piece.

French composer Olivier Messiaen writes the following in the prefatory notes of his Quatuor pour la fin du temps:

[…] L’abîme, c’est le Temps, avec ses tristesses, ses lassitudes. Les oiseaux, c’est le contraire du Temps ; c’est notre désir de lumière, d’étoiles, d’arc-en-ciel et de jubilantes vocalises !

The third movement Abîme des oiseaux of the Quatuor fascinates me from a philosophical point of view.  How can I imagine simultaneously the dialectically opposed identities as described by Messiaen: abyss (time) and the birds (non-time)?  When I think of Abîme des oiseaux, I am stricken by the fact that the title alone points to something more than visual; in fact, it transcends the sensorial imagination.  I find this very transcendence so critical; it is as though the meaning of metaphysics has been revealed.  When the birds cannot be imagined any longer visually, what becomes of them?  Or what are those birds in the first place, without time?  Or how is it to imagine the abyss?  Questions flow ceaselessly.

In my composition, Près de l’Abîme, I go on to ask these metaphysical questions in and from the great Messiaen piece.  It is a work in progress, and commissioned by Patricia Shands, an incredible clarinet player and one of the rare, exemplary pedagogues.  Through her I learned the necessities of inwardness, or the act of self-questioning, so as to let shine the outward expressions as a human being.  This work is dedicated to her.


I may have some follow-up commentaries to make on this piece, but for now, I will let the piece sit, so to say, and in the future I intend to enlarge the piece.

And now I am back to full-time-writing the work for Asko|Schönberg Ensemble.  The deadline is coming to my way and it will not stop approaching me.


I just discovered that someone did this on Youtube.  I was frankly surprised to see that someone took time to do this kind of thing on my music.  Who knew?