The sun shines on the Peak of Incense Burner*,
And the purple vapor rises like smoke.
Lo, the long stream of water hung up yonder!
Straight down three thousand feet the flying torrent leaps,
As if the Silver River** were falling from the ninth heaven.
Li-bai (701 – 762)
Tong Dynasty, China
* “Incense Burner” is a nickname for Lushan (a mountain)
** The Milky Way
Composed in 2001 this orchestral piece is a picture of the scenic landscape of Lushan Falls, as depicted by the poem.
The piece consists of four sections reflecting the meaning of the poem. The music is derived from a folk song of the Jiangxi Province, China, a region where Lushan stands. The music begins with fragments of the folk tune in the flutes’ lower registers and the percussion instruments’ glittering sound – “the sun shines on the Peak of Incense Burner and the purple vapor rises like smoke”. A long extensive melody of the folk song gradually becomes increasingly clear in the violins as one is overlooking the long stream of water “hung up yonder”. Music moves to the climactic point of the extreme sonority of the orchestra tutti – “straight down three thousand feet the flying torrent leaps”. This long descending section moves from fortissimo to pianissimo, from the highest to the lowest registers of the orchestra. Returning to the folk song with traditional Chinese harmony, the piece finishes calmly and peacefully.