Jade Terrace Liederbuch

Title: Jade Terrace Liederbuch
Instrumentation: Mezzo-soprano and string orchestra
Year: 2029
Duration: 30 min.


New Songs from the Jade Terrace (玉臺新詠), 429–589 A.D.


Arnold Schoenberg, Das Buch der hängenden Gärten, 1908–09

“New Songs from a Jade Terrace” (玉臺新詠) is an anthology of early Medieval Chinese poetry from 500 AD. The overall theme of the poetry discusses gender roles in the context of love and beauty. Some poems focus on feminine beauty and others are homoerotic. The ambiguity of gender roles is mirrored in the poetry itself where it is unclear who is addressing whom. My composition Jade Terrace Liederbuch will use fifteen of these poems alongside reworkings of Schoenberg’s Das Buch der hängenden Gärten to counter the original Stefan George poems where gender roles are fixed under the atmosphere of the “oriental” so that “the East” can be exoticized as something foreign and distant. By combining poems from early Medieval China, where the boundaries between gender and sexuality are ambiguous and undefined, with references to the music of Das Buch der hängenden Gärten, where the boundaries of tonal hierarchies are equally ambiguous and ever changing, I hope to re-colonize the idea of “the East” by suggesting that a Chinese aesthetic is more in agreement with Schoenberg’s musical vision, thereby making the text and music more of a democratic cultural exchange. My own musical aesthetics will transform the singing style and the references to Schoenberg’s music into the area of noise to suggest a music that is neither Schoenberg nor Chinese but something outside of fixed cultural categories in order to behold the beautiful wilderness of the other side of the garden.