Ng, Huay Ming
Doctor of Musical Arts
The title Strike refers to a persistent, almost obsessive act of hitting a piece of paper shaped like a man, a ritualistic act that was widely practiced by Chinese of older generations. This unusual act, along with incantations, prayers to the ancestors, feasting, and Chinese street opera all come together as part of a festival (Jin Can) that is celebrated in the lunar month of Ren (approximately February in the western calendar). Traditionally, the month of Ren signifies the beginning of the new agrarian cycle. So it is before the planting of the crops that this festival, with its series of traditional events take place. The act of hitting the paper man is usually carried out by an older woman. Normally, the name of the person that she wishes to curse is written on the opposite side of the paper man which is placed flat on the ground. The old woman then takes her shoes and beats on the paper man continuously, while reciting her curses. I found this scene, an old woman hitting and hurling curses, rather frightening in my childhood years. I recall that the adults would sing a folk song, We Have No Fear of the Big Tiger , to comfort us children. The images, sounds and some of the melodic content of this work are derived from and inspired by some of the events of this festival; particularly noticeable is the use of struck sheets of paper in the percussion section. Other events are not as referentially direct so that they may be used in many levels of structure. The work is a set of three variations divided into two large sections, but by no means does it conform to a conventional theme and variations procedure. The work's thematic impetus is derived from the nursery rhyme; We Have No Fear of the Big Tiger . The three variations incorporate important motivic fragments from this theme, all of which are elaborated and transformed through the entirety of the work. Thus, there is no “theme” in the sense of a central or original form from which the others spring, but rather a metamorphosis and assembly leading to the presentation of the full “theme” at measure 190. Another additional element in the musical tapestry of Strike is the emblematic percussive outbursts scattered throughout the work. This element appears four times and incorporates harmonic, rhythmic, timbral and textural elements which evoke the striking of the paper man. A final synthesis between the thematic material and the rhythmic element is realized at the very end of the piece, wherein a solo oboe reiterates fragments of the nursery rhyme juxtaposed with buoyantly accented rhythms from the full orchestra.
Music; Communication and the arts; Original composition