Posts Tagged ‘Orchestra’

Guanyin of the Southern Sea - Nelson Atkins Museum 2Kerwin Young composes Guanyin of the Southern Sea, a fantasy for guzheng, women’s chorus, and orchestra. Young is no stranger to Chinese instruments, having composed solo works for zheng, as well as suites for pipa, erhu, and guqin. His work has been performed by Music From China, and he’s also been honored by the Chinese Music Society of North America. A student of Chen Yi and Zhou Long while at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, Kerwin made plans for the current work in 2012; though it has taken quite awhile to begin working on it.

Historically, Guanyin is revered as a goddess of mercy, compassion, and kindness, and a guide for those who travel the sea. She also represents purity, harmony, and peace.

When asked what inspired the work, Kerwin responded with the following:

My mom and I, while visiting Savannah, Georgia, sometime during 2005-06, heard this beautiful instrument resonating along the waterfront. I stepped away from my mom and walked toward the sound I was hearing. From a distance, I noticed a canopy, and underneath saw an old man in a white tee-shirt playing a long, table top zither. At the end of the song, I approached the elder musician and asked what the instrument was, and how it was tuned. I learned that it was the guzheng, and that he was from China. I’d never heard anything quite like it before, and since then have been drawn to its warm sound. I collected the notes I received that day, and eventually added to them while studying at UMKC.

While in college, I befriended quite a few zheng players; many who were invited guests of Chen Yi and Zhou Long. I studied with Chen Yi from 2009-2015, and really absorbed quite a lot. I composed three solo works for zheng, and in 2012, had a successful premiere of I Walk Alone at the Nelson-Adkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo. At the time of the premiere, the Nelson-Adkins Museum had on display, a giant, life-sized statue of a Guan-yin (see the photo above). I was awed, and began fantasizing about a prospected work for zheng and orchestra.

Kerwin originally intended for this work to include two full-sized orchestras; one Chinese, and the other western. That idea, although a great one, was significantly chopped down as Kerwin began to flesh out some of the orchestration for his thematic ideas.

He did retain some Chinese instruments within the work, and those are the yangqin, yunluo, diyin daluo (better known as the tam-tam), xiaogu, and huapengu.

Both the brass and percussion sections are heavily stacked. The sopranos and altos, being the core of the women’s chorus, add a wealth of sonic flavor. Kerwin explained how his choice of instrumentation is necessary for telling a variety of stories within the overall work. He says, “On one hand, you’ve got the main subject of the Guan-yin representing her basic descriptives/attributes, and on the other hand, the mythology amongst cultures from Southern India to Japan; which open up new doors for my artistic expression.

2017 has been quite busy for Kerwin, who since January, has composed three major orchestral works: Symphony No. 5, Season of Autocracy, and Bolivar, totaling approximately one hour and ten minutes worth of music. Kerwin expects to complete Guanyin of the Southern Sea by late October 2017.


Ka’ness M’dolothongo – Author, Biographer

Movement three was completed this evening, and once again, edits were made while drafting and orchestrating. It’s an in-your-face bolero, bringing the total running time to just under thirty minutes. The third movement is nine minutes, and I’m quite pleased. The music seems to be writing itself.

Concerning movement three, the flute section and harpists may hate me, but challenges make way for great performances. I’ve orchestrated these parts carefully, so that even if they’re not articulated properly, they’ll still create the overall, desired effect. This movement also requires six percussionists, which I’m proud of! I’ve decided two years ago that I will compose music that I want to hear and see performed, regardless of what may be deemed as standard.

Over the next few days, I’ll begin to organize and analyze any unused material for the fourth movement. I do have a few drafts already, but all of these must be organized/outlined.

It would be great to be on a film scoring team either as an orchestrator, copyist, or composer of an epic screenplay, but  my orchestral works are my film scores for now. These are my epics, whether they’re programmed or not. Below are a list of works I intend to compose following the completion of Symphony No. 4.

Upcoming Works (in this order):

  1. Piano Quintet (working title) – This untitled work will be for my good friend Wen Zhang (pianist). I plan to compose a virtuosic work of no less than fifteen minutes. Of course, there are several other pianists that I will deliver the final product to, but I hope that it doesn’t end up as my work for bass/baritone and piano, “Cry of the Queenless King“, which is still unperformed. I hate writing a great piece that everyone loves……….but it never gets performed.
  2. Guanyin of the Southern Sea – I’ve been planning this work since 2012/2013, and it finally looks like I’ll get to it. I’ve got quite a few ideas and sketches for this already. This work will be extremely challenging, and may take up to six months to complete. I could definitely use some sort of grant, gift, or residency to complete this one.
  3. Doll Collection of Mrs. Wynn – Since graduating college in May 2015, I’ve been residing with a host family until I get myself into some steady work. The home owner has an incredible doll collection in a room all to itself. I thought, “hmmm….why not compose something for this!” I don’t have any sketch for this yet, but I plan to write a 3-4 minute work that could fit its way into a concert.
  4. Osagyefo (an opera projected for a 2019 completion) – I’ve begun the planning in 2014, and since March 2015, I’ve been researching my subject.

There are two other works-in-progress that are awaiting sponsors, but if that doesn’t happen, those two works will be placed on the shelf until a later time.