Exploring Mixed Ensembles Series #11

John Oliver: Deep Forest Feeling (Spirit shield for a world falling apart) for dizi, soprano sheng, clarinet in b-flat, pipa, guzheng, and violin. Dedicated to Chih-Sheng Chen (Commissioned work, World Premiere)

Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, Turning Point Ensemble / Chih-Sheng Chen / National Recital Hall, Taipei, Taiwan 2019.12.11

Music in 6 parts: 1) Awestruck 2) I Walk the Path 3) Bird Chase 4) In Deep 5) We Walk the Ancient Path 6) Cloud Forest

Program Note:

One day, while thinking about the music to come, I imagined the beauty of the Chinese bamboo flute called xiao. And so, spontaneously, I wrote the melody that you hear in Part 1. Then I imagined playing the violin: rapid scale patterns that make waves. Part 3 was born. Then I could not write any more. It took me a year to continue composing. While on a tour of Singapore and China as guitarist with the Sound of Dragon Ensemble (Vancouver), I began to find my way again. I visited the nature dome in Singapore called “Cloud Forest” on a day when the air pollution index was dangerously high. We had hoped to see the real rainforest that day. Instead we experienced the man-made indoor museum, while nature outside slowly dies from our activities. Then I imagined myself walking in the forest: the rhythm of walking, the breath, the occasional sound of life rustling above and below, birds calling. I imagined walking and listening to my breath. Part 2 was born. Then, I imagined many people walking the ancient path, from different centuries, from all over the world. This inspired the spontaneous composition of the melody that begins Part 5. The last part to come to me was Part 4, “In Deep.” I imagined the small sounds that we hear while moving through the forest completely off the path: branches and plants crunching and cracking under our footfalls; leaves and insects bouncing off the face and body. As we come close to nature, we may be reunited with our true spirit, become awestruck by the beauty of which we are a part. As we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves. The title “Deep Forest Feeling (Spirit shield for a world falling apart)” came last as I realized what my music made me feel, and how it could work for a listener to help face the perilous time in which we live.

~ John Oliver