Thunder of Spring over Distant Mountains (1973)
Robert Morris

Program Notes

Thunder of Spring Over Distant Mountains (1973) is the first portion of a trilogy of compositions exploring acculturation in music. It is a forty-five-minute quadraphonic electronic piece in two parts composed in the Yale Electronic Studio, which I directed from 1972 to 1977. Seven pieces of Southeast and East Asian music were taken as source material for the work and are subjected to varying degrees of electronic modification.

An opening prelude or overture presents overlapped segments of the source material in reverse order of their use in the piece, ending with "Eh-fan Chu" (Repeated Melody), a boisterous piece from Taiwan. Increasingly complex transformations of "Eh-fan Chu" comprise the first section (after the prelude) of the piece. Following this, a section based on "Cremation Music" from the Balinese wayang kulit gamelan explores metallic sounds via ring and amplitude modulation. The next main section of the piece uses "Goshoraku" (a piece of Japanese Gagaku court music) as source material. This section is quiet and peaceful with the source material in the background, as if overheard. The fourth section is based on a rousing epic ballad from Celebes (Indonesia), "Sinrili," for male singer and rebab (spike fiddle); a short polyphonic codetta concludes this section.

The fifth section begins the second part of Thunder... It is comprised of three subsections modifying "Gaku" (a piece of dance music (mai) for flute and drums taken from the Japanese Noh play, Kantan). A hectic climax ends abruptly with "Offering to the Guru Drakmar" (Tibetan Tantric-Buddhist chant with instruments) thus beginning the sixth section made from a superimposition of the fragments of the Tibetan "Offering..." over a long meditative passage. In the last major section of the piece, portions of preceding sounds and processes are mixed together under a high rushing texture, combined with fragments of the seventh and last source material, "The First Wine Offering" (a piece of Korean court music, ah-ak). An extended coda uses employs the Tibetan chant and the Wine Offering music, both of which are eventually transformed into a woodlike rustling from which only the instrumental interludes of the former remain to close the piece.