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for violin viola, cello and bass / 2015 

"Dukkha", originated from Sanskrit, is a Buddhist term commonly translated as "suffering", "anxiety", "stress", or "unsatisfactoriness". A concept of dominating significance in Buddhism, "suffering" ranks the first among the most fundamental Buddhist teachings- the Doctrine of the Four Noble Truths. The Truth of Dukkha embodies the view that human life is always companied by persisting suffering in physical, mental and metaphorical levels. The idea that there is an unsatisfactory nature of all phenomenal existence is by no means a pessimistic assumption, but a purely objective observation, and a significant proportion of Buddhist philosophies are concerned with no other matter than to exit this state of unsatisfaction, and to truly reach inner peace by freeing oneself from all attachments during meditation. This composition portrays one's battle with his suffering. As he is overwhelmed by pain and madness, depicted by fast and wild gestures in the violin and viola, the cello and bass directly borrow notated Buddhist chants, signifying the protagonist's struggle to meditate. He is then completely taken over by the demons within, as shakes of the coin box played by the bassist bring to mind the restraint of metal chains from hell. After a mental collapse and the lost of sanity, he finally seems to enter a realm of calmness and "emptiness", with the viola stating another notated Buddhist chant against a surreal backdrop of consonant harmonies. With the return of the gestures of suffering to end the piece, I do not attempt to answer, but rather to raise the question: can we truly escape the persisting fate of suffering in a life time?




Katherine Peter, violin

Carolyn Farnand, viola

Alice Kim, cello

Matteo Ferrero-Wong, bass


Kevin Zi-Xiao He, direction


Recorded in Walter Hall, University of Toronto, on 20 October, 2015

Copyright © Zi-Xiao He 2015

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