Lullaby for Astrid (2023)

Song for Soprano and Piano

Inspired by J. S. Bach, who used the letters of his own name as pitch, the song was composed with A Flat (As in German) and D from my daughter’s name Astrid as the main pitch material. It’s probably not a lullaby in the traditional sense, but the recited word was considered a meditation leading to silence and nothingness, Eiapopeia, Heiapopeia……

9:30 PM, Lullaby (2023)

for improvised Piano and Electronics

The piece focuses on how an unborn child responds to the sound of music. Especially when it hears a lullaby – sung by the expectant mother, the sounds are close to its body, gentle and familiar. If 9:30 pm is considered as a time point, the whole piece would be a magnifying glass. What an unborn child heard in one minute is extended in the piece to about 40 minutes. The space in which the unborn perceives sounds is tightly compressed. Through the protective layers of the womb, music reaches the unborn’s ear filtered and transformed. What did it actually hear and how did it feel in time? How does his brain process these sounds?

7:50 AM, A Selective Memory (2022)

for 2 Pianists, 2 Percussionists and Electronics

A fetus lives a secret life and communicates its emotions with the mother-to-be in subtle ways. The mother can understand her emotions to a certain extent, but many aspects of the communication remain a mystery. Like a scientist trying to understand nature, the mother can observe and experiment but ultimately has to accept that there are some things she might never know.

This piece is a musical reflection on how a fetus creates memories and how its memory functions in general. In the music, different types of musical fragments are linked, stacked, spliced and assembled. The connections between the fragments resemble the connections between ideas in a conversation.

I also want to highlight how memory is selective: in order to remember something, we need to forget something else. Below the musical surface, some space is left for the imagination and we can musically reflect on that which was lost when experiences were selected, discarded, compressed and unremembered in the life of a fetus. Nevertheless, the forgotten experiences and emotions still coexist with the selected memories, indirectly shaping the future life of the fetus.

1:50AM, Dreaming (2021)

for Organ Solo and Electronics

Prenatal studies have shown that when a pregnant mother is sleeping, the fetus will adapt and very likely sleep at the same time. If the mother is dreaming, her emotional changes will often be perceived by the fetus. The mother’s mind will be present in the fetus’s thoughts. A fetus is not only a partial copy of the mother’s body but also a copy of her character and life pattern/habits. The mother’s emotions will to some extent shape the fetus’s personality.

The text “The Butterfly Dream” from the second chapter “On the Equality of Things” in the book “Zhuangzi”, which is written by the Chinese Taoist philosopher Zhuangzi (369-286 BC), is recited and forms the basis of the electronic part, in which a recorded recitation of the poem is transformed into a stream of unfamiliar syllables.

“Der Smetterlingstraum”

Einst träumte Zhuang Zhou (Zhuangzi), ein Schmetterling zu sein, ein lebhaft flatternder Schmetterling, glücklich mit sich selbst, nur seinem Willen folgend. Er wusste nicht, dass er Zhuang Zhou war. Wie freute er sich, als er kurz darauf erwachte (und feststellte): “Da ist Zhuang Zhou!” Doch er wusste nicht, war er Zhuang Zhou, der geträumt hatte, ein Schmetterling zu sein, oder war er ein Schmetterling, der geträumt hatte, Zhuang Zhou zu sein? Zwischen Zhuang Zhou und dem Schmetterling muss es doch einen Unterschied geben! Das ist damit gemeint, dass sich die Lebewesen wandeln.

–Das Buch der daoistische Weisheit Gesamttext aus dem chinesischen von Viktor Kalinke

2.Auflage, Philipp Reclam jun. Verlag, 2019, 2. Auflage, S. 36. (Innere Kapitel 2.14)

13:24 – 13:37  (2020)

for Reciting Pianist and Electronics

The title “13:24-13:37” describes a 13-minute long prenatal listening experience. Sounds of human language are filtered through the protective layers of the mother’s body before entering the cochlea of the fetus.

Two poems by the Song-Dynasty-Poet Su Shi (1037-1101 AD) are used in the piece. “Zui Weng Cao” (“The Drunkard”) is relatively short and is recited by the pianist. “Chi Bi Fu” (“The Red Cliffs”) is longer and forms the basis of the electronic part, in which a recorded recitation of the poem is transformed into a stream of unfamiliar syllables. The sounds of the prepared piano and the digitally modified human voice blend together to create a disjointed and filtered auditory impression.

21:12  (2019)

for Ensemble and Electronics

(Bass Flute, English Horn, Bass Clarinet, Viola, Cello, Piano, Sheng and Electronics)

View excerpt

The title 21:12 refers to the specific time of the day when my daughter was born. This piece was written as an attempt at solidifying, reconstructing and commemorating this event. Most of the source materials for the electronic part are taken from recordings of fetal heart sounds and cries of newborn babies.

There are seven types of sound patterns in the piece. Since the interpretation of the patterns is somewhat open to interpretation, the relationship between the patterns as well the patterns themselves will change and evolve over the course of the piece. This uncertainty is what the piece attempts to uncover.

Concave Convex (2017)

for Flute, Clarinet, Harp and Vibraphone

The piece was composed over the course of 12 months while I was breastfeeding. So it is divided into 12 separate sections. Each section has its own character, but all of them should be considered as a whole.

„Concave“ and „convex“ are complementary antonyms normally used in a visual context. But when we put a visual idea in an audible context — does the idea itself change, do all properties hold? What gets lost in translation, and what is gained?

he (2013)

for Brass Quintet and Orchestra

View excerpt

“He” (和) roughly translates to “harmony” or “unison”. In addition, it describes an equilibrium of forces, the balance of sentiments. The piece attempts to actualize 和 in different ways, but is it perhaps a distorted, skewed harmony that the listener is finally confronted with?

Northwards (2011)

for Bass Clarinet

“Northwards” is closely associated with a train journey from Germany to Sweden.

From the Black Forest to the Baltic Sea – registral movements suggest a gradually sloping terrain, the process of sounds is a transition from reality to illusion. Pitch, timbre, duration, rhythm and texture — in these different areas, seemingly similar elements are made to contrast with each other. Polar opposites are connected: near and far, lightness and darkness, a back-and-forth movement between clarity and obscurity. Silence is the inaudible continuation of sound. A raw sound, produced by a piece of kitchen foil rattling on the inside of the clarinet pipe, secretly oscillates away into silence. Light and shadow blend. Movement — northwards.

In This Moment (2010)

for String Quartet

„In diesem Augenblick“ richtet den Fokus auf einen sehr kurzen Zeiteinheit, ähnlich dem Intervall zwischen zwei Schritten beim Gehen. Dieser Zeiteinheit wird nicht statisch gesehen, sondern als ein beweglicher Prozess. Einzelheiten dieses Prozesses werden vergrößert und verlangsamt wie mit einer Lupe. Die unterschiedlichen Arten der „Lupentechnik“ entstanden vor dem Hintergrund der traditionellen chinesischen Qin-Musik, in der die Kunst der Langsamkeit eine bedeutende Rolle spielt. Die zarte Klanglichkeit dieses mehr als 3000 Jahre alten Soloinstrumentes, das einer Zither ähnelt, wurde auf den Klangkörper des Streichquartetts übertragen, beispielsweise durch die umfangreiche Verwendung von Pizzicati mit Glissandi, die nur ganz fein mit der Fingerspitze nahe dem Fingernagel erzeugt werden und an den Klang einer Qin erinnern. Durch die Andersartigkeit der Instrumente und die musikalische Kommunikation im Streichquartett wird aber gleichzeitig versucht, die traditionelle musikalische Grenze der Qin zu durchbrechen.

Xing Cao (2009)

for Ensemble

(Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet, Tuba, Percussion, Accordion, Violin, Viola, Cello)

„Xing Cao“, eine Art Rhythmus ohne Klang, dessen Charakter Gegensätze vereint. Für mich besteht in der Ausdrucksweise eine Gemeinsamkeit zwischen dem Schreibprozess der Kalligraphie und der Wiedergabe der Musik. Daher habe ich während des Komponierens versucht, eine ähnliche Gangart zu finden, die nicht nur „Xing“ (relativ langsam gehende) und „Cao“ (relativ schnell gehende) beinhaltet, sondern auch mittlere Gangarten – als eine Erinnerung an die Kalligraphie meines Vaters.

Beispielsweise kommen in dem berühmtesten Werk von der Art „Xing Cao“, im „Lan Ting Xu“, einige Wörter in verschiedenen Ausführungen vor, also in ähnlichen, aber nicht identischen Formen der Schriftart. Das Zeichen „zhi“ beispielsweise taucht in 20 Variationen auf. Solche variierte Schreibtechnik hat mich auch in der Komposition inspiriert.

Ta (2008)

for Violin, Violoncello, Piano and Percussion

Tă heißt auf Chinesisch Pagode oder Turm. Das Stück wurde von dem Gemälde “Turm in einem Turm” des chinesischen Malers Mu Xin (1927-2011) inspiriert.

Es wurde versucht, im Stück die Struktur des Gemäldes musikalisch zu verstehen und zu “malen”. Die Pagode des Bildes hat eine eigene einzigartige architektonische Struktur. Von ihr wurden Kurve, Linie, Rund, Vorspannung, Vertikale und Stockwerke entlehnt, als Klangmaterial musikalisch imitiert und in neuen Kombinationen wieder gestaltet.

„Auf dem Gemälde sind zwei Türme dargestellt, einer ist der Turm in der realen Welt, in dem eine Figur eingesperrt ist, der andere ist der Elfenbeinturm in der spirituellen Welt der Figur“(Aus Wikipedia – Mu Xin). Darüber hinaus wurde es im Stück einen Raum entstanden lassen, der zeitgleich einen anderen Raum in der Vorstellung öffnet, sodass sich die Hörer*innen in einer weiteren Sphäre bewegen und über das zu Hörende nachdenken können.

Die Away (2006)

for Ensemble

(Flute, Violin, Cello, Vibraphone / Triangle, Piano)

The title of the piece is also the title of a text by the Chinese writer Lu Xun (1881-1936). In this work, I investigate the meaning of disappearance and abandonment, traces of which can be found in the compositional process itself.

Isolated points blend into sustained lines with soft timbres. When you are in a state of confusion, hesitation, rumination and disappointment, an extraordinary effort is needed in order to follow a path to its end.