Commissioned by and dedicated to Hsin-Lin Tsai and Miguel Perez-Espejo. The world-premiere will take place on October 8, 2023. Details here.
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Reflections & Refractions is a portrait of the L’Étoile Violin Duo (violinists Hsin-Lin Tsai and Miguel Perez-Espejo), who are of Taiwanese and Spanish heritages. The first two movements reflect on their heritages. The first movement is inspired by an Arab-Andalusian type of poetry that originated from Spain around the tenth century A.D. The second movement came about after Hsin-Lin, in an early conversation about the commission, hinted that she would love to have a movement that ‘my Mom would enjoy, or recognize.’ Though I don’t know if this might be the case, I did research and study recordings of traditional music from Taiwan. This search yielded a recorded performance, on the Sheng by virtuoso Yeh-Lan, that I was very inspired by. This performance, based on a melody called Ch’ai-feng-fei-hsiang, or ‘Flight of the Colourful Phoenix’, can be heard on the album Arc Music LC05111. The third movement is based on a 9/8 rhythmic cycle that can be found from Near East, to Turkey, Greece, the Balkans, and all the way to Western China. The Turkish name, Aqsaq, means ‘limping dance.’
In reflecting on both the familiar and unfamiliar, ideas about them were ‘refracted’ back to me. The traditional definition of ‘refraction’ describes a light or sound wave that is ‘bent’ when it passes from one medium to another. This is an apt description of the learning/creative process that yielded this work. While I am always sensitive to avoid any appropriation of a culture that is not my own, I rely on my years of study and transcription of folk music from the Near East as a means of approaching folk traditions with sensitivity and respect. This knowing full well that whatever will come out will likely become ‘bent’ as it passes through me. I offer this work to Hsin-Lin and Miguel with great admiration.
Kareem Roustom (9/4/2023)