At the End of Snow Line (2017-18)
2-2-2-2, 4-2-2-1, timp, 2 perc, hp, pno, cel, 16-14-12-10-8
Duration - ca. 12'15''
Performance history -
June 9, Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra with Kanako Abe (conductor)
Programme Notes -
I link “At The End Of Snow Line” to my own cultural traditions by starting from a unique point of departure: on the surface, none of the direct Chinese cultural elements seem to be used in the piece. The central material exhibits a four-note motivic gesture in an arpeggio shape. The idea arises from an important improvisational tradition in the performance practice of classic Chinese music, where attacks of a long focal tone are always surrounded by quick “ornamental” tones, but in my piece I do not employed it in such an obvious way. Through my composition, I create multiple musical lines based on this central gesture with different characters, lengths, pitch registers, etc. The piece ultimately grows from individual lines to a unified sonority. Once the overall sonority covers each of the monophonic lines, each of the lines becomes indistinguishable while the overall sonority becomes the sounding feature of this piece. By transforming the shapes of elements from my own culture, this composition eventually creates its own composite identity.
At the time when I started to compose this piece, I was moving from Boston, Massachusetts to Montreal, Quebec. Very soon, I settled down. During the winter season, whenever I walked on the snowy street, I always thought of my hometown. My hometown was a southern city in China that rarely snows. I spent my first 12 years in there before moving to Beijing, and then to US. To this day, I can still remember that during the winter, when I walked to the street in my hometown, my shadow projected on the clear road and that image was simply hard to be wiped from my mind.
Since then, many things have been changed in that lovely little land. Changes become more conspicuous when I look at them from distance. This piece, on an emotional level, shows my confusions and consistent love towards my land, and projects also my internal struggles with identity.
Speech on 2019 Toru Takemitsu Award Ceremony -
I would like to thank the Tokyo Opera City Cultural Foundation, the President, the judge Mr Philippe Manoury, the conductor Ms Kanako Abe, the producer Mr Jun Sawahashi, and all the performers and people who were involved in this project. It is with great honour that I stand on this stage and receive this award. Here I want to express my appreciation to all my composition teachers for their tremendous patience and invaluable help. I also want to thank my colleagues whom I met all around the globe, all of whom bring me endless inspiration. It is to teachers and colleagues alike that I owe my upbringing and development throughout my career.
At the End of Snow Line captures a scene where I stand at the end of a snowy street in Montreal in the winter, thinking back to my hometown where I spent my first twelve years of life. It was a small town barely snowing. I can always remember when my feet were on the road. The road was always clean and pristine, like a mirror.
After the factories were built on the seashore and the peaceful protest in 2012 against the unregulated PX chemical project, I started to think about a piece dedicated to my hometown and to its changes. This piece you heard today was that piece.
Throughout my life, there have always been things I cannot express in words, which I can only express in sounds. For me, composition is like a life partner, accompanying me through the dark, and even if we don’t see a light at the end, we, at least, encounter feelings of happiness, satisfaction, and tolerance along the way. Through composition, I regain a love to the world. At every helpless moment, I know that there is at least something I can create, something good I can share with you. And maybe through this sharing, one day our world, our country, will become better.
Recording by Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
© 2019 by Zhuosheng Jin.