Three Portraits of Pipa – for pipa and orchestra
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Three Portraits of Pipa is a three movement concerto for pipa, a traditional Chinese plucked-string instrument that has a history of more than 2000 years in China. The large variety of timbres of the pipa gives the instrument unlimited musical possibilities. Each movement of the work demonstrates one of the many timbral characteristics of the pipa. The first movement, “Sparkling Crystal,” features the crystal like timbre of natural harmonics on the instrument. Together with multiple string plucking techniques, the movement gives listeners a composite picture of sparkling crystals. The second movement, “Continuous Stream,” showcases various right-hand tremolo techniques on the pipa, such as two-finger tremolo (gun), and five-finger tremolo (lun). These techniques generate lyrical and expressive melodic lines, decorated by traditional Chinese musical gestures such as pitch bending and pitch sliding. The third movement, “Rattling Metal,” demonstrates the metallic, percussive sound of the pipa. Traditional percussive techniques such as multiple string-strumming (sao xian), string twisting (jiao xian), and sound board snapping (tan mian ban) are featured. This movement also incorporates timbral and rhythmic elements from the Beijing Operatic tradition. The modified, non-standard tuning of the open strings (A-sharp, D-sharp, E, A) of the pipa gives the work a unifying melodic motive that consists of the intervals of perfect fourth (perfect fifth with inversion), minor second (major seventh with inversion), and tritone. The motive is heard, with variations, throughout the entire work.
Table of Contents
Abstract -- Instrumentation -- Standard notation -- Movement -- Vita