Songs of Distance

for soprano and piano

This set of seven songs was composed for the soprano Mei Zhong of Ball State University and is included in her Anthology of Chinese Songs, Volume II: Traditional and Modern Chinese Art Songs. For information about that anthology, please contact Leyerle Publications. Questions about buying Songs of Distance separately can be sent via e-mail to Paul SanGregory.

The words for these songs are poems taken from the collection "300 Tang Poems" and are written in Mandarin Chinese (English translations and pronunciations guides are included with the songs). Although the poems all appear within the same collection, different authors wrote them at different times so there is no direct relationship between them. Even so, the poems selected for this cycle work well as a unified group because they all share the common thread of separation from home and loved ones. It is for this reason that I eventually began thinking of them as representing a single story. So although no characters are described and no real action takes place, I hear these songs as forming the outlines of a miniature quasi opera about a once powerful man who has discovered the tragedy of politics.

Because the poems are so much a part of Chinese culture, it seems natural that songs based on them should include Chinese musical influences. To that end, I have tried incorporating musical gestures, as well as scales, rhythms and performance techniques that are used in Chinese music. However, as a Western-trained composer, I also hope to create the sort of drama that is often heard in art songs, or even opera. The result is a hybrid of styles that, I hope, will bring to mind the people and landscapes of China.

Performances by Hsin-Hsin Lin (林欣欣) and Hsin-Rong Hsie (謝欣容) can be heard at the follwoing links:

1) Farewell Gift, II
2) Evenings at Xuyi County
3) Liangzhou Verses
4) The Jade Terrace
5) Longxi Verses
6) Untitled
7) A Streamside Dwelling

(Performance duration for all seven songs: ca. 17-18 minutes.)

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