Vanished Through Time
for soprano and piano
The text of this song cycle is taken from “Shijing” (Classic of Poetry), the oldest collection of Chinese poetry, comprising 305 works of various origins dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BCE. Even though many of the poems may have originally been folk songs, they seem to have been edited by the learned, for they are highly polished and are rather consistent stylistically and metrically throughout the collection.
Written in the language of what we now consider to be Old Chinese (the classic language spoken roughly during the 13th - 3rd century BCE), almost all of the poems rhymed at the time, consisting of end rhymes as well as internal rhymes. While some of the rhymes still rhyme in the modern varieties of Chinese, many of them have ceased to rhyme in Middle Chinese (the medieval language whose phonology was first documented in 601 CE). Thus the collection has become an important work for providing linguistic evidence for reconstructing Old Chinese.
In this song cycle, I have used, with permission, the most recent and perhaps the most accurate reconstruction of Old Chinese to date by Sinologists William H. Baxter and Laurent Sagart in their most recent book “Old Chinese – A New Reconstruction”, which was published by Oxford University Press in 2014.
The title “Vanished Through Time” reflects on the gradual extinction of this ancient language, the inevitable disappearance of the ways of life and thinking suggested in these poems, and with the common theme of love present in the three poems selected for this song cycle, the ever-changing state of both the material and the spiritual.