Hsing

for solo harp

Anne LeBaron

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for solo harp

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Composer Anne LeBaron
Composer

Year of Composition

Instrumentation

Duration

ca. 20'

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Categories (all composers) , , , , ,
Catalogue ID ce-alb1h1

Notes

First performed January 29, 2011 by Alison Bjorkedal at the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena California.

Hsing, for harp with soloist, is a concert theater work that weaves a personal encounter with a haunted harp into a flexible structure built on the Five Elements, integral to the practice of feng shui. A dream-like realm is fostered, with a sense of time suspended. The harpist becomes immersed in a process of discovery while performing the score, which functions like a coded message. The sensual actions indicated throughout the composition—placing the lips to sound hole, bowing the body, caressing the shape of the harp—contribute to the alternately ritualistic, playful, self-absorbed, immersive environment in which the harpist dwells.

The title, Hsing, refers to the five elements integral to the practice of feng shui. Water, wood, fire, earth, and metal are the physical elements in nature believed by the ancient Chinese to demonstrate the ways chi moves in the universe. One of the ways these elements interact with one another is known as the ‘productive cycle.’ In this cycle of change, the energy phase of each element transmutes into the next element in the cycle. For instance, water falls and flows, nourishing wood; wood expands as it dries, feeding fire; fire rises, producing earth in the form of ashes; earth revolves, giving rise to metal in underground minerals; metal contracts, holding and condensing water on its cold surface. The music reflects this cycle in manifold ways. In fact, the form of Hsing itself is cyclical. The ‘personal element’ of the harpist, determined by the performer’s date of birth (according to the philosophy of feng shui, everyone is ruled by one of the five elements), will indicate where, in the cycle, the piece begins.

The realization of the of twenty-one ‘wild cards’ embedded into the score, with their exact placement pre-determined by the Lo Shu, or ‘magic square,’ imbues each performance of Hsing with a more extreme level of unpredictability. Just as the Lo Shu unlocks the time dimension for feng shui, the deployment of wild cards in Hsing allows for multiple time dimensions during each performance—for instance, time experienced during the performance of the music itself, as opposed to a different perception of time during the ‘actions’ indicated by the wild cards. Wild card instructions range from “Invite an audience member to play a short duet with you,” to “Take your metal tuning key or slide and attempt to play two phrases from a
familiar tune on one string.”

Hsing was first performed by Ann Yeung at the Geneva World Harp Congress, in a shortened version. Alison Bjorkedal gave the world premiere on a Southwest Chamber Music concert in Pasadena, California, on January 29, 2011. The duration is about thirty minutes. I am grateful to insightful and inspiring director Rafael Lopez-Barrantes, who provided guidance for the conceptual, visual, and movement aspects of Hsing for this performance, and his suggestions are now provided in the score.