Symphony No. 3, "Rituals" - Plan and Instrumentation of The Work - The Chinese Layer

The Chinese Layer

Ranged behind the Malay ensemble is the Chinese ensemble of violins and double basses on high harmonics, plucked ‘cellos, piccolos, oboes, clarinets and piccolo clarinet, muted trumpet, harp, and various percussion. After a crescendo bass drum summons, these play a sequence of six slow hymns, such as would have accompanied the bi-annual sacrifices performed at the Temple of Confucius by the emperors of China since 195 B.C. Ching's version is drawn from the "Thirty-one Ceremonial Airs" by the Song dynasty composer Xiong Penglai (ca. 1246 – ca. 1323), who used a wider gamut (a heptatonic scale) and more interesting intervals than were to be allowed in the later Ming and Qing hymns. In the order of the hymns, the dialogue of the percussion instruments and their spatial disposition on stage, Ching abided closely by the extant Ming and Qing manuals and some corroborative Western eyewitness accounts. The "wrong" notes in the doubling of the hymn tunes also accord strictly with the yin-yang cosmology of Chinese acoustics. For the heterophonic accompaniment, Ching found a living exemplar in the unbroken tradition of Ming music which he heard in the Zhihua Temple in Beijing in June 1997. A chorus would have sung the hymns, but is omitted here. Instead, a male chanter announces in Mandarin Chinese the part of the liturgy accompanied or followed by each hymn (e.g., the washing of hands, or pouring of the libation).

Read more about this topic:  Symphony No. 3, "Rituals", Plan and Instrumentation of The Work

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