Midnight Run (2007)
A theater production for dance, music, narration and visual projections
Mentored by Martha Clarke
Story and music by Angel Lam
Choreography by Peabody Dance Director Carol Bartlett
Visual projections and stage design by Carol Bartlett and Angel Lam
Premiere with Hong Kong Sinfonietta and Australia's Grainger Quartet
October 5, 2007
with Maestra Yip Wing-Sie
We must call back the 'self' and revive our accumulation of experience and our capability of observation. Let our minds float, across the rigors of the physical world, where we feel the tastes of life, and our music, as evidence of the forces of life, without black and white nor right or wrong, but only the mysteries of life, and of life, all on its own. I believe, that is the essence, of our post-post modern world.
As time went by, the last curtain of my graduate life at Yale University drew near. I could only explain my experience like going into a theatre in the middle of an old movie; it was not only the light contrast that I have to adjust to, but also the wrinkling of the movie screen, streets wavering back and forth, now warped, then caving in, blurring and doubled...I turned my back and prepared to head towards the exit, suddenly, at an impulse of a moment, images of the screen became explicit and clear. I sat down again and found myself in the screen, shopping around. I could even hear what the shopkeepers are selling.
I agree with what the modernists have said, extreme romanticism corrupts the soul, but a fool like me, stubborn as I am, refuses to let go of the audiences who fall into the palms of the commercial world. I decided to find my own solution. As a rationalist, I write stories for my music so that they recall lives, and arouse definitions.
Remember the girl yelling hysterically and calling her leader's name at the People's Square? Her mind had already left her body? Remember the girl waiting anxiously for the finalist's list of a popular song contest? She doesn't know that the society she lives in is conducted by reasoning?
Here I am, the guardian of a new form of music, higher definition performing arts.
"Between the music and literature there
is a vast whiteness, like the ancient poem
drawings of the Sung period, there lies a
meaning, or a question, only the listener's
imagination can complete."
- April 2010
"Since 13, Scarlett had always reminded me, "Afterall...tomorrow is another day."
I give a higher definition to the music, back to the detail, back to our self-consciousness. Gao Xingjian (recipient of the 2000 Nobel prize in literature) said that drama (music) is nothing but performance; the performer should always be aware that he/she is performing. It is a real thing and a self-conscious art. We go back to the surface, and make interpretation an invention. Time is extended through the recollection of details, in Awakening from a Disappearing Garden, the three minute narration becomes an eternity course...the luxurious mansion, the solid red, nine-foot wide main entrance, the royal green mandarin dress...they come alive, as Aurelius Augustinus told us on the art of the display of time.
On going back to the surface, Shin's mother
(Shin is a five year old character in
Crayon Shin-Chan, the Japanese manga
series created by Yoshito Usui) scolds Shin
for leaving crumbs while eating cake, his
father tells him to behave and improve his
eating manner. Shin answers, "it is not my
problem, it is the cake's problem--we should
change the cake, not my eating habit." Shin
taught his parents that there is no need to
go so deep. (This scenario is my own.)
I borrow the characters from Crayon Shin-Chan
to explain the spirit of Post-modernism.
Music, like poetry, stems from an inner
force; it comes, and it goes, like flowers,
bloom and fade."
On Awakening from a Disappearing Garden and the ghost of Eileen Chang
I am deeply moved by the many powerful human stories coming from a country with 1.3 billion people, centuries of turbulent political and societal changes with distorted human behaviors, long periods of pressure and constant human tragedies. However, those were also extraordinary times of non-material pursuits and spiritual transformations.
Reading the short stories of 20th century literary giant Eileen Chang, I discover an unusual postmodern ghost displayed in her characters. This ghost has haunted me many times when I try to look for inspirations to create a soundscape for a new musical work.
China between the two world wars had experienced much trauma and instability in its social and political circumstances. Similar to the post-war writers in the western world, Chang (b.1920-1995) responded to the wars and the feelings of helplessness and persecution in her own uniquely florid language, and acute social and emotional observation. This was during the time of the Republic of China under the Nationalist Party, the Eight Nation Alliance colonization, and the Japanese occupation of Shanghai and Hong Kong. Those were unique times in history, of cultural fusion. The Eight Nation Alliances brought France, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Japan and the United States into China and intermingled those cultures with China's own rich, varied and layered tradition. Chang herself was brought up in Shanghai and well educated in both Chinese and English at a Christian high school. In 1939, as a young woman she received a full scholarship to attend the University of London, but due to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, she was not able to continue that path.
Awakening from a Disappearing Garden, though it is not based on a Chang writing but my own, the first movement is set against the politically unstable time in which Chang lived; that was the time they called the "Big Era".
In the composition, I try to evoke this subtle yet powerful strength, a restless postmodern force, inside Chang. She was clearly ahead of her own time. The society that Chang lived in was a chaotic struggle for power at the dawn of the modern society. For the ordinary people, and especially for a young woman in China, the pressure of modernization and modern political expansion, as exhibited in the political agendas of the time, together with the twisted distortion of rules and 'traditions' bounding Chinese women and society, was an overbearing omnipresent force. It seems to me, her characters, and my Number Five...sublimated.
There was no clear black or white, nor right from wrong, but only the full forces of life, floating through the physical world. The anti-heroine, feels the tastes of life, and forgets depth and tradition. Spiritually, goes back to the surface. In music, it is a lyrical cry, full of nostalgia, tragedy, and extreme beauty.
- Autumn, Yaddo 2010
Eileen stayed at MacDowell Colony to work on her book in 1957