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11 mins

commissioned by Julia Glenn

I was deeply honored to be commissioned by Julia Glenn to compose a piece for inclusion in her album. During our initial discussion in 2021, we envisioned a composition for solo violin. However, as the creative process unfolded, it transformed into a more substantial work for baroque violin and electronics.


Our mutual fascination with the interplay between music and language served as the foundation for this collaboration. Julia's background in linguistics, combined with my experience in traditional Chinese poetry recitation, inspired me to venture into uncharted territory for this composition. I aimed to capture not only the traditional practice of poetry recitation but also the unique sound of the original language. Since I intended for the piece to be based on the Tang Dynasty poet Li Bai's《蜀道難》Shu Dao Nan, I needed to use reconstructed Middle Chinese pronunciations. 


In an effort to convey the 韻味 (feel) of the original work through music, this composition embraces three facets of the poetry: phonology, by translating the original phonology into violin writing; tonal structure, by incorporating the use of traditional recitation; and the emotive power and vivid imagery. In summary, my aim was to translate the entire experience of the original work into a medium devoid of language, allowing for a purely musical expression.

Premiered by Julia Glenn on March 3rd, 2023 at Brandeis University.

Album release coming soon.

​Translation by Composer

Hard is the Road to Sichuan
Li Bai

Eee hooo heee!

How daunting! How tall!

Hard is the road to Sichuan,

hard as climbing the sky!
Can Cong and Yu Fu

founded a state, immemorial.

Forty-eight thousand years have gone, 

never linking Shaanxi with human life.
To the west, only by a bird's path on Mount Taibai
can one surmount Mount Emei's peak.
Earth shattered, mountains crumbled, heroes died,

then were the heavenly ladders and stone planks linked.

Above, six dragons entwine the sun at the tip;

below, raging waves clash back the twisting stream. 

Even the flight of a yellow crane cannot pass;

monkeys wish yet fear the climb.
Mount Qingni, how it twists,

nine bends in a hundred paces wind through the rocky slopes. 

Touching the Three Stars and crossing the Well, gazing up, afraid to gasp;

with hand on chest, sit and sigh.

Asking when you'll return from your western journey,

fearing the towering cliffs, unclimable. 

Only mournful birds cry in olden trees, 

males flying, females trailing, encircling the woods. 

Hearing the cuckoo's call in the moonlit night,

saddened by the empty mountain. 

Hard is the road to Sichuan,

hard as climbing the sky!

Hearing this, color drains from one's face. 

Chains of peaks less than a foot from sky,

withered pines, upside down, cling to sheer cliffs. 

Rushing torrents and roiling falls rage in uproar,

smashing cliffs, spinning rocks, thunder echoes through ten thousand ravines. 

Such is the danger.

Why, you from afar, have you come?

The Sword Gate, towering and imposing,

one man guards the pass,

ten thousand fail to breach. 

The guard may not be kin,

may turn into a wolf or jackal.

Flee from tiger by day,

flee from snake by night.

Teeth grinding, blood-sucking,

killing people like slaying hemp.

The City of Brocade, though said to be blissful,

better still to go home soon. 

Hard is the road to Sichuan,

hard as climbing the sky!

Turn your gaze to the west, let out a long sigh. 

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