Message for the Year of the Metal Rat II - Anna Sowa

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Message for the Year of the Metal Rat II - Anna Sowa

References to China in this composition, making use of field recordings and excerpts from a speech by Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party and President of China, are not accidental, but in no way related to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The work is largely the fruit of my one-year-long residency in Shanghai, and of my journey through China in 2017–18. My stay in the “Middle Kingdom” (Zhōngguó) has frequently returned in my memories and thoughts until they accumulated into an impulse to compose this music. 

For a person brought up and formed in European culture, China is a country of paradoxes, mostly because mutually contradictory ideas and phenomena coexist there on many levels of life. Such a simultaneous coexistence of contrasted worlds is hard to comprehend for the West, which is used to thinking in terms of dichotomies. In China extreme contrasts are omnipresent: in urban landscape, aesthetics, world views, in the material, and even the spiritual spheres. 

In my memories China returns as a country where one side of a street hosts the luxury boutiques of exclusive world-famous brands, while on the other side we find small, crumbling bars. Capitalism coexists with market-based socialism. An automated metropolis inhabited by several million people smoothly merges with spotless, harmonious natural landscapes. Modernity exists side by side with tradition, and advanced technology is used just as much as simple tools. 

In all this, between admiration and critical reflection, between incredible diversity and homogenisation – there is some kind of unspoken anxiety which betrays the ambivalent nature both of the subject and the object of my experience. 

I have reflected the complex character of China in the structure of my composition, in which I attempted to create a new type of sound. It is dominated by rhythm, which determines the form of this piece. The human elements coexist with artificially generated sounds. Nature, silence and meditation are opposed to technology, destruction, and din. Order turns into chaos. 

Anna Sowa