With the lilies and the song and the stars - (Xiao, Strings and Piano, 14')


With the Lilies and the Song and the Stars (2014) for Xiao (may be played by flute), string quartet and Piano - 12'
- Commissioned by the Forbidden City Ensemble with the Borromeo String Quartet and Meng-Chieh Lu

Program Notes

With the Lilies, and the Song, and the Stars is my imagining of the dreams and fantasies of the people of the Paleolithic era–the first humans to make lasting art. These prehistoric humans made vivid cave paintings all over the world 40,000 years ago, and it is fascinating to me that whether in Indonesia or Europe, there is a fundamental commonality between all of the examples that have survived. The moment that people began to use tools, they made art, and we see in these origins that our differences are not so great, after all. 

Some anthropologists believe that before spoken language there was song, used to communicate over large distances over valleys and in echoing caves. I am not attempting to capture what that might have sounded like in this music, but something of the wondrous world that these early people wanted to capture in their beautiful artwork. In their overlapping hand stencils are the impressions of flowers and nature. In their many depictions of animals are their stories and songs. And in the burnt surfaces of their torches on the glinting rock is the proxy for stars in the bright prehistoric night. 

With the lilies, and the Song, and the Stars uses the Chinese xiao bamboo flute juxtaposed next to strings and the relatively modern piano. The xiao is perhaps the most ancient crafted instrument still played in the modern world. I can think of no better voice to help describe this ancient world, and its people’s concerns with the worldly and celestial.