Karlheinz Essl

Portrait KHE

Autumn's Leaving

Quasi una fantasia
for pipa and live-electronics
2015

Dedicated to Huikuan Lin


Basics | Videos | Listen | Score | Tech Specs | Performances



潯陽江頭夜送客,
楓葉荻花秋瑟瑟。
主人下馬客在船,
舉酒欲飲無管絃。
醉不成歡慘將別,
別時茫茫江浸月。
忽聞水上琵琶聲,
主人忘歸客不發。


At night by the Xunyang River to a guest we bid farewell.
With autumn chills maple leaves and reed flowers fell.
On the boat was the guest, down the horse came the host.
Alas there was no music; still we raised cups for a toast.
Drunk without joy, in sadness we had to say goodbye.
The river was misty then, reflecting the moon up high.
Suddenly from the water came the sound of pipa.
The host forgot to return and the guest didn't depart.

Bai Ju-Yi (772-846): The Pipa Song


About

I came in closer contact with the Chinese pipa during a workshop that Taiwanese musicians Huikuan Lin and Chaoming Tung gave at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna in December 2014. I Immediately fell in love with this fascinating instrument, which possesses a long tradition enriched with stories and tales. I was astonished when I listened to classical pipa music, specifically that written in the "war music" style, which sounded like Jimi Hendrix at his best. Although this music stems from the middle ages, its variety of expressions and sound colors is incredibly rich.

I understood that writing a piece for such a highly-developed instrument would require a thorough knowledge of idiomatic playing techniques. I therefore began investigating the sound properties of this instrument myself, approaching the process with a childlike curiosity. My main purpose was not to learn this instrument properly, but to discover new sound possibilities beyond the traditional techniques.

While working with Huikuan Lin, I asked her whether she could refer me to poetry about the pipa. To my delight, she told me about the famous Chinese poet Bai Ju-Yi, the author of the well-known "Pipa Song," dating back to the 9th century. I asked Huikuan to recite this poem and made a recording of it. Though I could not understand a single word, when I read the translation, several key words grabbed my attention: autumn leaves, the moon, and the river. I understood them as the mission for my piece: trying to combine these images into a piece of music, or better: a flow of sound.

Immediately, the old jazz tune Autumn Leaves came into my mind, and later also Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, both of which have no structural relations to Chinese music at all. It took quite some effort to transform these well-known "earworms" into a representation that could evoke some vague allusions without just quoting the originals.

With the aid of a computer program developed for this piece, I was able to create an ever-flowing stream of sounds from the live input of the pipa, shaped by the voice of the recorded poem; at certain points, the pipa begins to speak and to sing, telling her melancholic story of love and farewell.


Karlheinz Essl: Autumn's Leaving (2015)

Performed by Huikuan Lin (pipa) and Karlheinz Essl (live-electronics)
Taipei, Eslite Performance Hall (Taiwan) on May 1st, 2015


秋逝 Autumn’s Leaving 琵琶和即時電聲 (2015) Karlheinz Essl作曲

我能以近距離接觸到中國的琵琶,乃源自於2014年12月來自台灣的音樂家林慧寬及董昭民受邀參加維也納音樂暨表演藝術大學舉辦的工作坊。我立即被琵琶在傳統歷史上蘊含著豐富的故事及傳說所以吸引並為之著迷。當我聽到古典琵琶的琴音立即為之驚訝,尤其是演奏「戰爭音樂」型態作品部份,她的琴音婉如吉米杭翠斯(Jimi Hendrix)所表達的最佳部分。雖然這樂器源自中世紀,但它多面向的表達及音色竟是如此不可思議的豐富。

我知道為這已高度發展的樂器撰寫作品,是需要有足夠彈奏技巧表達特色的知識。我因此獨自開始探索琵琶特有的聲音,有如孩童好奇心驅使一樣的過程進行。我主要目的不是要以正統方式學習此樂器,而是要在此傳統技巧上發掘「新聲音」的可能性。

當我與林慧寬一起工作時,我曾問她可否提供一些有關琵琶的詩集,令我欣喜的是,她告訴我中國著名詩人白居易,也是西元9世紀有名的「琵琶行」作者,我請慧寬為我吟唱這首詩並將之錄音。當我閱讀其譯文時,雖然不認識任何一個字,但幾個關鍵字:「秋葉、月亮、河水」立即引起我的注意,我知道這些就是我作品中的使命,我試圖溶入這些圖像到我的音樂作品中,甚而更好的是一個流動的聲音。

首先古老爵士樂「秋葉」的音符,及稍後貝多芬「月光奏鳴曲」均湧入我心中,兩者與中國音樂完全無任何關聯。我著實花了一些努力,將此著名的作品予以轉換成一個在既未引用原著卻能勾起一些曖昧暗示的代表作。

此首作品在電腦程式協助下而製成,我能夠將琵琶聲音現場輸入而創造出源源不斷的小溪流水聲,並以所錄製的詩歌聲相伴。從某些角度看,琵琶開始講話及歌唱,傾訴她憂鬱告別的愛情故事。

作曲家/Karlheinz Essl
Karlheinz Essl 教授, 1960出生於維也納,1987畢業於維也納音樂院,主修器樂作曲和電子音樂創作。1989年發表論文「安東・魏本的合成概念」,取得維也納大學的音樂學博士。1993年接受巴黎的電子音樂中心IRCAM委託創作。1995-2006在奧地利的布魯克納大學教授電腦準則作曲。2007年開始迄今,在維也納音樂暨表演大學專任電腦音樂教授,是奧地利重量級的電腦音樂作曲家和權威。


Pipa poem (excerpt)

A few lines from Bai Ju-Yi's Pipa Poem which have been recorded for this piece with the voice of Huikuan Lin; a passage that describes the broad palette of sound qualities that can be produced on a pipa.

千呼萬喚始出來
猶抱琵琶半遮面

大絃嘈嘈如急雨
小絃切切如私語

嘈嘈切切錯雜彈

Only after many goads did she come out of her place,
Still holding the pipa that blocked half of her face

The bass strings rumbled like thunderstorms pelting.
The treble strings rustled like lovers whispering.

Rumbling and rustling interleaved at a fast rate.


Videos

Performance at the Eslite Performance Hall in Taipei (TW)
with Huikuan Lin (pipa) and Karlheinz Essl (live-electronics)
1 May 2015


Performance at the SonicLab of the Bruckner University Linz (A)
with Min Wang (pipa) and Karlheinz Essl (live-electronics)
17 Nov 2015


Karlheinz Essl: Composing for Pipa, lecture with Chinese translation by Fan Wei-Tsu
Chinese Culture University Taipei
28 Apr 2015


Score

The score of Autumn's Leaving can be downloaded for free. Please note that the music is protected by copyright.


Autumn's Leaving, page 5 of the score
Score excerpt of Autumn's Leaving, page 3
© 2015 by Karlheinz Essl


Autumn's Leaving, page 5 of the score
Score excerpt of Autumn's Leaving, page 5
© 2015 by Karlheinz Essl


Technical requirements


Setup


correct position of the contact mic on the pipa

Correct position of the contact microphon on the pipa


Software


The realtime processing of the Pipa is executed by a computer program written in Max. It is distributed as a standalone application which doesn’t require Max to run.


  • Start the software AutumnsLeaving.app

  • Select the name of your input and your output device in the Audio Status window. Afterward, switch „Audio“ to „On“.

  • Carefully set the input level of the contact mic on your audio interface using the LED display below the „Input“ subpatcher.

  • Numbers in boxes refer to certain presets which start a pre-determined processing of the sound. Press the space bar on the computer keyboard (or stomp on the MIDI switch) in order to proceed to the next preset.

  • By hitting the ESC key of the computer you can reset the electronics and switch off the audio output.

  • Press the right arrow key on the computer keyboard to see the next page of the screen. Press the left arrow key to go back.



Home Works Sounds Bibliography Concerts


Updated: 22 Nov 2015