Le Lys sur la Corde弦上的百合, 2015
for Violin and Live Electronics
performed by Wenqian Li and Larry Shuen
In late 19th century, August Wilhelmj, a German violinist, arranged the second movement of J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No.3 to a piece for violin and piano, by modulating the key from its original D major to C major and transposing the melody down an octave, which should be played only on the G string of the violin. The arrangement had a great vogue once being performed. After tracing the source, people were amazed by this work which was composed by J.S. Bach hundred years ago. Since then, this arrangement was deeply admired by violinists and the audience, whom gave it a nickname Air on the G String.
Wilhelmj was like giving a new life to the origin, as this beautiful masterpiece may vanish without his arrangement and interpretation. What becomes provoking is that there are more people who have listened to Air on the G string than the people who knew Bach’s Orchestral Suite No.3; whereas people would only associate Air on the G String with Bach, but not with Wilhelmj. Apparently, Bach did not get all the credit for Air on the G String. Wilhelmj was the one who gave new definitions to the original piece, which made it passing down through centuries, continuing to be observed today.
I believe that how performers translate the music is like a music re-composition. Performers will fill their personal characteristics into the music based on their experience, techniques, understanding, preference, emotion, etc. Somehow in the literature of contemporary music, following the score exactly without making any mistake has become the common performance practice; it seems there is no room for performers to express. Can this phenomenon be attributed to the complicated and highly-demanding nature of contemporary music? To the abstract concept of creation? To the profound message hidden in the music? Or to the other causes?
These are the questions raised by Le Lys sur la Corde. In this composition, I concentrated on the design of structure and moods, leaving much freedom for the performer to interpret. I wish to demonstrate the creativity, musicality, personality of both the performer’s and mine in this flexible music design.
Take Le Lys sur la Corde as a portrayal, would the message be more in-depth when it is told in a foreign language?