On November 24, my first string quartet will be premiered by the Tapiola Sinfonietta String Quartet commissioned for Musicus Society's heritage concert series.
The contention for space in both physical and spiritual realms is the dynamic which animates this piece, which is directly inspired by Nan Lian Garden, a Tang Dynasty heritage site located in the midst of Diamond Hill’s dense, urban public housing estates. The contention for space is explored in this piece through harmonic intervals and the active role of Violin I. The space is sacred; the sensitivity of this space is highlighted by how different parts of the garden react to water differently.
The distance between free-flowing rain at the bottom of the steps compared to intricately-controlled water-flow in rain chains hanging from temple roofs is mirrored by the interruption of the notes F and G after the first motivic fragment. These are notes that are close together, but have intervals nearly an octave apart. The intervals interrupt the opening fragment morph almost immediately and eventually take on an insistent rhythm, a deep ostinato which further emphasizes distance contrasted with close intervals of seconds. Such separation, put forth by an especially active Violin I, urges the remaining trio to be hyper-aware of such activity in the midst of limited space. The piece progresses and concludes with an intentional use of octaves and clearer homophony. We are reminded that worlds of the Garden and the urban cacophony of Diamond Hill co-exist with clear boundaries, yet have grown together in their identity and help each other survive - within this contention for space - an inescapable phenomenon in the city of Hong Kong.