Exploring Chinese Orchestral Repertoire Series #58

Chenwei WANG: Confluence

Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, Tien-Ku Percussion Group / Dr. Chih-Sheng CHEN / National Concert Hall / Taipei, Taiwan 2021.01.29 / Video: Jacob Audio and Video Arts, Jacob Chang / Audio: Chao-Hui Wang.

«Confluence» is a composition presenting the vibrancy and harmony of Singapore’s multi-cultural society. Indian and Malay-Indonesian musical styles are fused with Western compositional techniques and performed on Chinese instruments.

The piece begins with the full orchestra imitating the “gong kebyar” style of Balinese gamelan. The first theme is a flowing melody in an Indian style, while the second theme is a lively melody in the gamelan “pelog selisir” pentatonic scale.

The middle section is a fugue with an Indian-style subject played by the Pipa, juxtaposed against a gamelan-style counter-subject by the Gaohu. The latter engages in a cross-rhythm of 3/8 against the 4/4 meter, symbolizing the Confucian philosophy of “harmony in diversity”.

The final section recapitulates the first section and builds up to a grand ending, where the four main melodic motifs are presented simultaneously in counterpoint. This encapsulates the spirit of mutual respect among the four main races and reflects the confluence of cultures in Singapore.

Commissioned as a chamber ensemble piece by the Ding Yi Music Company (Singapore) in 2009, «Confluence» was later adapted by the composer for Chinese orchestra, symphony orchestra and other instrumentations. In 2019, the Xinyue-MUSA ensemble performed «Confluence» on the TV programme «Chinese Music Banquet» broadcast in China. In 2020, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared the Singapore Chinese Orchestra’s virtual performance of «Confluence» on his Facebook page, encouraging people to work together to get through COVID-19 and emerge stronger.

~ Chenwei WANG