Described as “evocative and kaleidoscopic” (Seattle Times), the music of composer Dorothy Chang often reflects the eclectic mix of musical influences from her youth, ranging from popular and folk music to elements of traditional Chinese music. Many of her works are inspired by place, time, memory and personal histories. Dorothy’s catalog includes over seventy works for solo, chamber and large ensembles as well as collaborations involving theatre, dance and video. Her interest in cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaboration has led to projects including a radio play adaptation of Gertrude Stein’s White Wines for four vocalists and speaking percussionist, several large mixed chamber ensemble works for Chinese and Western instruments, and most recently, a collaboration with choreographer Yukichi Hattori and four other composers in the largescale True North Symphonic Ballet premiered in 2017 by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.
Dorothy’s music has been featured in concerts and festivals across North America and abroad, with performances by ensembles including the Albany Symphony Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Queens Symphony Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Victoria Symphony Orchestra, as well as by chamber ensembles including eighth blackbird, the Smith Quartet, the Chicago Saxophone Quartet, Collage New Music and Music from China, among others. From 2005-2008 she served as a Music Alive composer-in-residence with the Albany Symphony Orchestra.
Born in Winfield, Illinois, Dorothy currently serves as Professor of Music at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Recent projects include a double concerto for erhu (Chinese fiddle) and piano, premiered in April 2018 by the Piano and Erhu Project and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Commissioned by the Sound of Dragon Ensemble, with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts
Instrumentation: Dizi, Flute, 2 Erhu, Guitar, Ruan, Cello, Percussion
Timekeepersis a lighthearted and quirky piece that plays with rhythmic pulse. Various combinations of instruments take turns laying down a rhythmic grid that is then distorted, interrupted or layered with other material that either complements or conflicts. The result is a constantly-changing landscape of patterns and pulse, coloured by whimsical elements that include microtonal detuning, zipping noises, scrapes and pops.
Small and Curious Places (2013)
Commissioned by Soundstreams, with funding from the Canada Council Commissioning Program.
Duration: 13 min.
Instrumentation: Dizi, Flute/Piccolo, Clarinet, Percussion, Pipa, Zheng, Harp, Piano, Erhu, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Bass.
Available through the Canadian Music Centre // Video
2. where lost memories gather 3. garden of soft shadows
4. love thyself
5. of ever lingering light
“As a second-generation Chinese American (now also Canadian), the issue of cultural self-identity has always been somewhat perplexing. In previous works for mixed Chinese and Western chamber ensemble I used my music as a medium to address this issue head on. In contrast, my most recent work, entitled Small and Curious Places, puts aside the question of East vs. West and instead approaches the ensemble as a group of individual instruments and their unique characteristics, with none more distinct or exotic than the others. There is no grand, overarching statement in this work; contrarily, the movements are independent of one another, and mostly quite introspective. Each movement is a self-contained miniature, an exploration of a particular sound space.
The imaginary and peculiar places of this collection are inspired by various imagery, captured moments or states of mind. In the first movement, “anticipation,” continuously surging momentum provides a framework for the expansion of a single line into increasingly rich, dense and unexpected harmonic sonorities. The second movement, “where lost memories gather” introduces a texture of glassy, static string clusters from which isolated musical gestures emerge and submerge again. “Garden of soft shadows” has a limited timbral palette and is characterized by soft whispering and scuttling sounds that evoke a sense of quiet unease. The following movement, “love thyself,” is built up of very short musical bits and fragments that pile up until pent-up energy at last erupts. The last movement is a meditation on the tenuous moment just as waking becomes slumber. “Of ever lingering light” is the imaginary place where one might capture this fleeting moment and prolong it, hovering indefinitely within this elusive space. Small and Curious Places was commissioned by Soundstreams.”
Dorothy Chang (2013)