Pastoral | 牧歌

for String Quartet and Electroacoustic

Premiered at White Hall of Performing Center, Kansas City.

Oct. 6th, 2016





Pastoral for string quartet and electroacoustic-excerpt - Anqi Liu
00:00 / 00:00


The composer's homeland of Inner Mongolian, China is an indelible mark both on herself and her music. There are two important singing forms in Mongolian culture, which are long tune singing and Mongolian throat singing. Neither could be done by the people outside Mongolian extraction; therefore, this limitation kept these unique arts isolated. The core of throat singing and the difficulty of the art is that one sings two voice parts at the same time with an ethereal overtone floating high over a heavy drone. In incorporating the fixed media and string quartet, the composer embeds her work with the universal philosophy of the Mongolian people: that between the earth and sky are people who are free and close to nature.


It has proven nearly impossible to find any instrument or even voice to mimic Mongolian throat singing. However, after becoming more familiar with electroacoustics, the composer was inspired to incorporate technology to bring this art to the world. The throat singing in the fixed media in this piece is a cassette tape recording between the 60th and 70th measures and the artist who sang this has passed away. The tape is valuable and owned by Mr. Keqinfu Lee, the Mongolian music musicologist who has done copious work for the advancement and preservation of Mongolian music. The composer studied the piano with him in the early stages of her training and was deeply influenced by his efforts to preserve Mongolian music.

As opposed to throat singing, the long tune is a more melodic singing form; therefore, the composer composed a melody to both mimic the exquisite long tune melodies and rendered it playable by the string quartet. The subtle nuances of melismas in the long melodies make this singing form unique. In the middle part of the piece, players are asked to improvise with the graphic notations to convey the Mongolian aspiration for absolute freedom in the nature. Moreover, an orchestral accompaniment is another aspiration of the composer's for Mongolian art; thus she used her own orchestra recording as a core element in the fixed media.