The pitch material of A Sinking Love is based on patterns derived from the first six notes of Henry Purcell’s Fantasia No. 8. The composer approached this excerpt not so much as a quotation, but rather as a base pattern for development of stylistic variation and exploration of articulation possibilities, such as overtone production, ricochet, pizzicato, etc. Throughout the entire piece, the strings play only in harmonics. The melodic pitch material of the vocal line, although derived from intervals found in the Purcell phrase, is based upon the tonal properties of the Chinese text. In the Chinese language the meaning of the word is directly related to pitch inflection. The same word can have several different meanings depending on the register of its pronunciation.Read More
In composing A Sinking Love, as well as many of his other compositions, Tan Dun reflected on what he refers to as the “cultural counterpoint” of the “positive blending” of the West and East – represented here in the form of the Purcell excerpt and the tradition of the viol consort underlying the Chinese text and vocal techniques. Through such a cross-cultural fusion of styles, Tan Dun aspires to the creation of a new musical language, which is neither strictly Easter nor Western – a language for the coming century in which these diverse elements take on a new color, and are no longer limited to the fields of their native language, culture or technical traditions.
“But every sound, sung or played, is carefully weighted and coloured, so that one hangs on every microscopic, poetic gesture in this moving, delicate expression of homesickness.”
–Stephen Pettitt, The Times, May 5, 1995