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Sound Recording (Musical)
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7672 KB, 1 sound recording (8.08 min.) audio/x-wav
This is one of Leong’s more substantial choral work. Based on the work of poet patriot Qu Yuan who lived during the time of China’s Warring States Period, Nine Cantos is in eleven sections and is programmatic in nature. Set in the beautiful province of Hunan, the narrative elements in this poem allow for greater interplay between the voices and the supporting instruments, the piano and percussion. The varied timbre of the percussion instruments (glockenspiel, tambourine, temple bells, timpani, Chinese drum, etc.) provides Leong with the opportunity to characterize each section with a distinctive timbre. There is also greater independence of parts between the piano and percussion. Though the piano assumes a variety of styles across different movements, it is mostly cast in a supportive role, reinforcing choral parts, or sometimes offering momentum to relatively static vocal parts. The opening section “Monarch of the East” begins with a processional piano prelude in 4/4 meter and with the hands playing in unison. To create the effect of the approaching procession, Leong begins p and grows to an ff to herald the entrance of the voices. It is soon disrupted by two bars of 3/4 time before the return to 4/4. Used primarily to break the monotony of the 4/4 metrical emphasis, this device of structural disruption is used again in bars 57 to 58. In “Lord of the Clouds”, the effect of floating clouds is achieved with the piano played at the high register. The glockenspiel illuminates this impression by reinforcing the melodic contours of the passage. In the sections “Master of Fate” and “Young Master of Fate”, the characters are differentiated by percussion such as the timpani for the master, and the unpitched tambourine for the young master. Leong also gives a weightier chordal accompaniment in 4/4 meter for the master while the younger is in 2/4 meter and in lively rhythms. The only a cappella segment with imitative entrances is saved for the “Master of Fate” section. Without the accompaniment as support, the voices can better appreciate the composer’s nuanced part writing. Borrowing from the infantry regiments of the west, Leong calls upon the side drum to accompany the male voices in the penultimate “Hymn of the Fallen Warriors”. Despite the variety of texture, timbre, and subject matter, the cohesion of Nine Cantos lies with the consistency of the main tonal center (sections 1, 2, 7, and 11) and narrow intervallic structure (descending or ascending seconds and thirds) of the melodic patterns, which reveal his concern for voice leading. Nevertheless, Leong’s melody and harmony are elusive, and the principle of contrast dominates. The frequent juxtaposition of animated and static passages or horizontal and vertically sonic ones form points of contrast and generate a different kind of tension in the work. Ultimately, Leong’s choice of harmony, melody, rhythm, and subject matter is motivated by personal preferences that reflect the heterogeneity of his social and cultural milieu.
This digital copy (c) National Library Board Singapore 2007. The original work (c) Leong Yoon Pin 1986.