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 études for intermediate piano students, each of which presents a musical and technical question to the pianist through the character of a classical Chinese instrument.
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 étude presents a separate puzzle for each hand.
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.
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.
"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.
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2016 October 20