Three Zheng Études, version 2 Kevin Austin

In the late 90s I had a student, Chih-Lin Chou, who asked me to compose for ea and her instrument, the 21-string chinese zither, the guzheng. I said .. “yes, yes …” and let it go at that. Each year for 3 years she asked me again. She graduated and we lost contact. In the early 2000s, she emailed me and said she had an upcoming concert and wanted the pieces.

As I was on sabbatical leave for 6 months, I composed an ea ’accompaniment’ for three traditional chinese pieces in the guzheng repertoire. The constraints were clear.

These were to accompany traditional chinese pieces -- they can be found in They would be presented to traditional chinese audiences -- they would have to be ’easy’ to listen to. I was not interested in doing a simple karaoke (MIDI) instrumentation, and besides which, the performance style includes a great deal of subtle change of tempo, and a fixed accompaniment would bind the performer and remove this freedom.

Also, I had not worked in studio technology for some 15 years. While I knew the new technologies in theory, I had no practical skills to speak of. I had to learn the technology and compose about 18 minutes of material. My advantage was that while I had done no (formal, public) composition for 15 years, I had maintained a “creative practice”, such that I could assess the value / usefulness of materials almost immediately upon hearing them, and had enough technical knowledge to be able to imagine what might be interesting things to do.

Having completed the three pieces, I faced another “composer” issue, that is, these pieces needed a guzheng performer, and there are not many who want to play this kind of music. So, I took the ea accompaniments and decided to create a number of “independent” pieces that could be presented, based upon the materials, but not requiring new sounds. Part of the reason for this was the change on Macintosh from System 9 to OSX, and the software I had used for the original pieces did not work under OSX. A realistic response (on many levels) to a practical constraint.

  • Year of composition: 2003
  • Hardware used: G4
  • Software used: SoundMaker, Logic Audio
  • Duration of the submitted work: 13:46
  • Production: Home

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