still changes (2017)

For Soprano and Piano

c. 9’20


Score available on MusicaNeo

Recorded by:
Carolee Fairbanks (soprano)
Ji Heng Lee (piano)

In this single-movement work, I explore the conceptual possibilities of using the two germinal words, ‘changes’ and ‘still’, on three different levels. Foremost, the entire text-setting is generated by extracting syllabic fragments from each of the two words, stretching and splicing them to concatenate new syllables:


blankThis gradual, relentless process of ‘syllabic metamorphosis’ goes on throughout the piece, whether or not the intermediate morphology of the syllables make sense – it still changes. In this sense, my approach to the text embodies the literal meaning of the two germinal words.Furthermore, with regards to the development of foreground musical material and texture, I drew inspiration from the Dutch graphic artist, M.C. Escher’s Metamorphosis woodcut trilogy (1937-68), in which an idea morphs into a tessellated pattern, from which another new idea gradually emerges. My piece begins with a metamorphic process based on the word ‘changes’, which leads into a new section based on ‘just’, where yet another metamorphic process takes over. Following this, a new, final section based on ‘still’ emerges. The smoothness of metamorphic processes as such—the slight variation introduced with each reiteration—give the illusion of stillness to the musical surface, thus ‘still changes’. Nonetheless, there are still changes happening!

blankOn a deeper, structural level, the music gradually progresses (or ‘changes’) through ten sets of pitch and rhythmic materials. There is an overall increase in the musical pace across the piece, with the subsequent pitch/rhythmic sets changing at an increasingly faster rate. Towards the end of the piece, the rate of change is actually at its fastest (it is not still at all) although the word ‘still’ is being reiterated, and the sparseness of the foreground texture gives the illusion of stillness. In light of such a disjuncture, the contradictory sense of the phrase ‘still changes’ takes on a structural meaning.