Become Ocean – Program Notes

My composition "Become Ocean" from 2003 was encouraged and inspired by the great zheng virtuoso Wang Changyuan of Shanghai and New York. It is dedicated to the memory of the great Western American composer Lou Harrison and celebrates the endless inspiration that he and his numerous colleagues all over the world drew out of their creative encounters with traditional Chinese music and culture. In “Become Ocean” I wish to depict an overview of a large landscape — rain in the high mountains, forming a trickling stream, a gushing creek, converging into rushing rivers, and finally flowing into the ocean. To me this piece is a snap shot that represents the full course of a life — from babbling beginnings through autumn floods.

The composition makes use of a number of virtuosic zheng techniques like tremolos, glissandi, bent notes, “flowing water,” etc. The three guzheng are each tuned to a different key: D, G, and C, which makes for a rich, dense pitch spectrum, which is at the same time full of sympathetic vibrations. The inner dynamic of the stream of musical ideas is created by a contrapuntal framework through the use of diverse canon techniques.

(Stefan Hakenberg, 2007)