When You Contemplate the Waters (2013)

Composed for the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory New Music Ensemble

An old haiku by Kyokusai (1816-1874) goes: “When you contemplate the waters at day break, you can hear the lotus blossom” (English translation from Japanese Death Poems, ed. Yoel Hoffman, 1986), alluding to a popular but unsubstantiated belief that the lotus flower makes a subtle noise when it opens. Instead of approximating that imagined noise, When You Contemplate the Waters affirms what the lotus traditionally symbolizes: purity, awakening, and life. The piece is built around two opposite forces: the water—fluid, unstable, and freely given to transformation; and the lotus—solid and assured in its purpose. Sometimes they are directly opposed; at other times it is more difficult to tell them apart. In the end the flower blossoms, emerging out of the murky waters.

Instrumentation [*]: flute (doubling alto flute), oboe, clarinet in B flat, bassoon, horn, trumpet in B flat, trombone, percussion (1 player: vibraphone, bass drum, tam-tam, suspended cymbal), piano, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass

Duration: 8 minutes

Premiere: November 13, 2013, Esplanade Recital Studio, Singapore • Yong Siew Toh Conservatory New Music Ensemble; Chan Tze Law, conductor • Dedicated to those who were working to rebuild, following Typhoon Haiyan

[View Score Excerpt] • [Contact to perform]

* An alternate version (2015) also exists for chamber orchestra with a full string section. [View Perusal Score]