Exploring Mixed Ensembles Series #6

Dorothy Chang: Small and Curious Places
Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, Turning Point Ensemble /Owen Underhill / National Recital Hall, Taipei, Taiwan. 2018.6.7.

Described as “evocative and kaleidoscopic” (Seattle Times) the music of composer Dorothy Chang often reflects the eclectic mix of musical influences from her youth, ranging from popular and folk music to elements of traditional Chinese music. Many of her works are inspired by place, time, memory and personal histories.

Born in Winfield, Illinois, Dorothy began her music studies on piano at age six and began composing at the age of fourteen. She received degrees in composition from the University of Michigan (B.M., M.M.) and the Indiana University School of Music (D.M). She has served on the music faculty at Indiana State University and since 2003 has been a Professor of Music at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

1. anticipation, 2. where lost memories gather, 3. garden of soft shadows, 4. love thyself, 5. of ever lingering light
“As a second-generation Chinese American (now also Canadian), the issue of cultural self-identity has always been somewhat perplexing. In previous works for mixed Chinese and Western chamber ensemble I used my music as a medium to address this issue head on. In contrast, my most recent work, entitled Small and Curious Places, puts aside the question of East vs. West and instead approaches the ensemble as a group of individual instruments and their unique characteristics, with none more distinct or exotic than the others. There is no grand, overarching statement in this work; contrarily, the movements are independent of one another, and mostly quite introspective. Each movement is a self-contained miniature, an exploration of a particular sound space.

The imaginary and peculiar places of this collection are inspired by various imagery, captured moments or states of mind. In the first movement, “anticipation,” continuously surging momentum provides a framework for the expansion of a single line into increasingly rich, dense and unexpected harmonic sonorities. The second movement, “where lost memories gather” introduces a texture of glassy, static string clusters from which isolated musical gestures emerge and submerge again. “Garden of soft shadows” has a limited timbral palette and is characterized by soft whispering and scuttling sounds that evoke a sense of quiet unease. The following movement, “love thyself,” is built up of very short musical bits and fragments that pile up until pent-up energy at last erupts. The last movement is a meditation on the tenuous moment just as waking becomes slumber. “Of ever lingering light” is the imaginary place where one might capture this fleeting moment and prolong it, hovering indefinitely within this elusive space. Small and Curious Places was commissioned by Soundstreams.”
~ Dorothy Chang