Xuanji Codex

Title: Xuanji Codex
Instrumentation: Choir (28 singers)
Year: 2027
Duration: 25 min.


Star Gauge (璇玑圖, Su Hui, 351–394)


Josquin des Prez, Missa Fortuna desperata (Agnus Dei I), 1480s

Pierre de la Rue

Pierre de la Rue, Missa L'Homme armé (Agnus dei II),1503


88, rue Mouffetard, Unica Zürn (1954)

The Xuanji tu, or Star Gauge, is a palindrome poem composed in the fourth century China by the poet Su Hui. The poem can be read in multiply directions, forwards and backwards, each conveying a different meaning. This text is combined with the anagram poems of Unica Zürn where each line is a strict transposition of the letters of a given line or phrase, usually the title line. The formal processes of transposition and retrograde of these poems by Su Hui and Unica Zürn are set to canons from the late Medieval and Renaissance period that are also governed by the rules of transposition and retrograde which determine how each voice enters the canonic structure. My process of “reverse-transcribing” these canons for choir by foregrounding their noise-like materiality relies on a continuous process of creation and erasure, or the adding of new layers while retaining traces of what has gone on before. These reworked canons address the relation between memory and time through processes such as transposition and retrograde that attempt to preserve something which experiences loss through its ungraspable materiality.