Contemporary Music Ensemble Korea (CMEK), Boston Musica Viva;
Yi Ji-young, gayageum; Kim Woong-sik, changgu; Taipei Chinese Orchestra, Chang Yin-fang, conductor
The series of works featured on this album ushers in a new orientation for Chou Wen-chung (b. 1923) because it marks his first direct engagement with traditional East Asian musical ensembles. The genesis of Eternal Pine came about in part by his longstanding friendship and scholarly exchange with the eminent Korean musicologist Lee Hyeku. Owing to the persistence of a gayageum master, Yi Ji-young, Chou first composed Eternal Pine I for the Korean ensemble in 2008. The other versions soon followed: one for a Western musical ensemble in 2009, the duo version for Korean instruments in 2010, and the last for Chinese Sizhu ensemble in 2012.
Eternal Pine refers to the beauty and strength of pine as a symbol for longevity and eternity in East Asian cultures. This imagery is foreshadowed in his earlier work Windswept Peaks (1990), where Chou refers to the gnarly pine trees on mountain peaks, swept by the wind for hundreds of years. In such a context, the pine trees also symbolize the spirit of wenren - the indefatigable spirit of literati who have survived all sorts of persecutions throughout Chinese history.
In his meticulous preparation for composing music, Chou gives attention to minute details to create an artistic experience comparable to seeing "the universe in a grain of sand." At one moment, an informed listener may hear echoes of Anton Webern in the brevity and contrapuntal mastery of musical lines in Chou's music; at another moment, s/he may be enthralled by the discovery of an infinite expression in the utterance of one sound.