instrumentation: string quartet & piano

year: 2015


program notes
This piece is intimately related to an earlier piece I wrote, Like You Mean It, a trio for piano, violin, and cello. It’s a guided improvisation piece in which I connect fully-written out passages for the ensemble with improvised passages where I use a mix of verbal descriptions and technical information to orient the performers. Some of the verbal cues are a mix of ambiguous, somewhat problematic (as in subjective) terms, and others are provocative racial attributes. The work attempts to challenge and corner stereotypes, and is a complex but – in my opinion – interesting commentary on both the state of racial stereotypes in music, but also on the predicament of being an ‘Eastern’ composer living in the West today.
After having completed that work and following a couple of performances, I decided to write out my own improvisation to Like You Mean It. I was, in a way, all of the performers at once. I did so for a commission I had from the Fontainebleau music session, in the summer of 2015. The instrumentation was a bit different from the original, but the work is very much the same. This quintet is therefore a written-out version of what I would have played in Like You Mean It, were I to be all of the performers at once.

performance history

Première in July 2015 – Fontainebleau, France: Shannon Lee, Sophia Cho (violins), Hyeri Shin (viola), Qizhen Liu (cello), Chelsea Wang (piano). Second performance in January 2017 – Galvin Hall, Evanston, IL: Pauline Kempf, Lena Vidulich (violins), Aurélien Pederzoli (viola), Audrey Snyder (cello), Shi An Costello (piano).
download the score
listen to the première on Soundcloud