The Blazing Mirage for Violoncello and Strings was commissioned by the Musicus Society and premiered on October 26th, 2012, by Trey Lee and the Munich Chamber Orchestra, Alexander Liebreich conducting, at the Concert Hall of City Hall, presented by the New Vision Arts Festival of Hong Kong.
The Blazing Mirage was inspired by the phenomenon of Dunhuang Caves which arguably has kept the greatest Buddhist art frescos and the manuscript documents dated back from the fourth century spanning over one thousand years.
I consider Dunhuang a miraculous phenomenon—the colossal treasures not only survived over millenniums of time, but also endured many political and religious reigns. As a result, Dunhuang represents a cultural mélange: Although most of the frescos and manuscripts were about Buddhism (an Indian origin), there were images and documents on other religions such as Taoism, Nestorianism, and even Judaism; and, in addition to the Chinese language, the Dunhuang Manuscripts found in the caverns were also written in Tibetan, Uighur, Sanskrit, Pali, Sogdian, and Khotanese. Along with the Manuscripts, music scores in a lost notational system were found, and several attempts of ‘decoding’ have been made in recent decades. Interestingly, there is a stylistic similarity among these diverse interpretations— the music all sound with a piquant Central Asian flavor.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Dunhuang Caves is that it opened a window letting us observe the lives of ancient times that reflected this fusion. In fact, it was a testimony of how Chinese culture and Central Asian cultures have influenced, infiltrated and, to some extent, shaped each other.
And it is from that angle I approached this composition.
The work starts with a cello recitative based on a Mukam (a Central Asian classical music form) motif I heard in the region during my first Silk Road field trip. The string orchestra introduces a well‐known folk song from northern Shaanxi, a province where Chang An, the ancient Chinese capital, located. At first, these two ideas appeared to be distinctive, but as the music continues through songs and dances, they gradually transform into one mélange.
The title of the composition came from a legend: In 366 AD, a Buddhist monk had a vision of a thousand Buddhas glittering in golden lights. And that prophecy inspired him to build the first cave on the rocks of Dunhuang.
《燦影》為大提琴與弦樂隊而作The Blazing Mirage for Violoncello and Strings （由垂誼樂社委約創作Commissioned by Musicus Society）
對我來說，敦煌藝術歷經千年風沙及不同政治與宗教的支配，能倖存至今簡直不可思議。 由是，敦煌藝術成為一種文化總匯的象徵：雖然大部分壁畫與手稿都是關於印度傳入的佛 教，但也有其他宗教的繪像與文獻，例如道教、景教，甚至猶太教；從敦煌石窟發掘出來 的手稿，除了用中文書寫，還有藏文、維吾爾文、梵文、巴利文、粟特文，以及禾闐文。 除了文字手稿，還有已失去了記譜法的樂譜，近數十年來不少學者數度嘗試「解碼」。很 有趣的是，雖然幾種闡釋截然不同，得出來的風格卻很相似，都帶著強烈的中東情調。
或許敦煌石窟最重要之處，在於它打開了一扇窗，讓我們在這種交匯融合中看到古代人是 怎樣生活的。的確，敦煌是個見證，表現出中國文化與中亞文化是如何互相影響、互相滲 透，甚至在某個程度上，互相造就並發展了對方。
全曲以一段大提琴宣敘調開始。我第一次到絲路作實地考察時，接觸到木卡姆，這是中亞 一種古典音樂形式，我就以這段木卡姆的音樂動機作為這段音樂的主題。跟著弦樂團奏出 一首陝西北部民歌。陝西是中國古都長安的所在地，這首民歌很為大眾所熟悉。起初，兩 段樂念似乎互不相干，但經過一輪歌曲與舞蹈後，漸漸轉變，合成同一匯流。