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Reflection Through Broken Glass

shattered prayers


for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and marimba / 2015 

This composition is a further exploration in such concepts of musical modernism as purity and silence. Purity is embodied in the highly restricted use of pitch vocabulary of the work. The piece centers itself around the pitch B, with pitch material limited to only B and its immediately neighboring pitch classes before being forced open to others. Through this restriction, the pitch B seems to represent an oppression, a dictatorship of darkness and terror, of which the pitch material of the piece struggles to break free in the middle section, where the marimba sustains the pitch B forcefully while the other instruments attempt to pull themselves away from it as microtones, before bursting into an abundance of pitches. Silence is explored and incorporated in the extremely soft dynamics, sustained and dying gestures of long notes, and ever-growing long periods of rests and pauses, cursing the work with an acoustic crisis and forcing sounds to the absolute margin of their sonic presence. The shattered prayers are embodied by the single pitch of B played in extreme registers and nervous timbres throughout the whole structure. In the terrible struggle of pitch activities lies one's frantic mourning of loss in the aftermath of violence and his fragmented, almost desperate will towards peace.




Sarah Moon, flute

Juan G. Olivares, clarinet

Adam Despinic, violin

Abdrew Ascenzo, cello

Jonny Smoith, marimba


Kevin Zi-Xiao He, conductor


Recorded in Walter Hall, University of Toronto, on 9 December, 2015

Copyright © Zi-Xiao He 2014

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