Koans

A kōan is a brief and often cryptic story or question in Zen Buddhism told to provoke thought and understanding. Koans is a collection of etudes for intermediate piano students, each of which presents a musical and technical question to the pianist through the character of a classical Chinese instrument.

If you are interested in performing this collection, please contact me here.

0. The ox and the boy

O piper boy, where are you going?
Astride your water oxen lowing
Your dizi trills its sweet reply-
Two natures singing one selfsame song

An evocative melody with two personalities, this opening etude presents a separate puzzle for each hand.

  • duration: 1′30″
  • grade: approximately level 3-4 (RCM)

1. Tale of Two Fiddles

Erhu of the city and of the field,
Weave your songs like wind in the reeds,
Or the voice of the swallow entwined in the sky.
Where light is rising and darkness falling,
The circle of hours twelve, turning-
When all have spoken, silence.

A dialogue between two hands, two melodies, and two themes, this invention is a study on hand independence and coordination in simple positional playing.

  • duration: 1′50″
  • grade: approximately level 4-5 (RCM)

2. Lesson on Enlightenment

The master questions pupils three-
One speaks: two notes sound as one,
Two speaks: one note sounds as two,
Three speaks: countless notes sound three-
No answer, but a smile

A minimal, three tone melody harkening to Ligeti’s Musica Ricercata, this study is an exercise in focus and dynamic control, demanding precise voicing in dyads and melodic ostinatos.

  • duration: 4′20″
  • grade: approximately level 6-7 (RCM)

7. Widow’s Lament

"Fie, fie, fie!"
Upon the street she cries,
Her shaking pipa strains
Can stay no passer-by:
This knife cuts not the rain

This character piece involving twelve-tone motifs showcases the pianist’s strength and dynamic power through rapid tremolos, requiring exceptional finger firmness and fine, quick playing from the knuckle and wrist.

  • duration: 3′10″
  • grade: approximately level 9-10 (RCM)

2016 October 20