Most people associate the term 'flamboyant' with cockiness and extravagance. But in reality, the verb 'flamboyer' means to blaze, sparkle or set on fire. And Flamboyer is the title of Li-Ying Wu's new work for percussion duo and orchestra, her largest work to date, which, in addition to the full symphony orchestra, requires a large setup of both Western and Asian percussion instruments.
The two percussion soloists use e.g. Chinese table drums, which are known from Chinese opera, and the soloists must both improvise and move choreographically as part of the work. It all takes place under the title Flamboyer, which has several meanings for the composer:
"Flamboyer is French meaning ‘to burn’ or ‘to set on fire’," Li-Ying Wu explains. "When I started to write the piece, I knew that the rest of the concert would be French music, and that inspired me to find a French word or term to describe music with energy and colours, but also with metamorphic associations. Fire transforms things from one state to another. And I also like, that fire is so much linked to rituals throughout human history. A concert is in many ways a ritual, something we experience together and share. In the piece, you should be able to hear the fire in different stages - from roaring flames with intense heat to just a pulsing glow."
In Flamboyer, Li-Ying Wu combines traditions and timbres from Western and Asian music in various ways, as she explains:
"In many Asian languages, the intonation of a word can change the meaning of it. Maybe that is why, I find, that Asian music is more about colours, whereas Western music sometimes is more about form, direction and lines," Li-Ying Wu states and continues: "That is what I try to combine in ‘Flamboyer’. The soloists do not play so-called melodic percussion instruments like marimba and xylophone, which play exact pitches. They play non-pitch instruments like drums, woodblocks, gongs and cymbals, chosen carefully for their colours. These colours are reflected also in the orchestra. But at the same time, these instruments also create rhythm driving the music forward, and as a result, creating forms and structures common to Western music.
The concerto includes a passage of improvisations, which Li-Ying Wu expects to bring even more colour to the work:
"The classical concerto, as we know from for instance Mozart and Beethoven, always has a cadenza, and in those days, the soloist was expected to improvise the cadenza, based on the material of the concerto. Later, it became more common that the composer wrote the cadenza, but in this piece, I felt that the soloists should work out the cadenza themselves. They have some guidelines, but they spend so many hours with their instruments, finding colours I probably can not even begin to imagine. I hope they can bring these colours to the piece. And by being part of the creative process like this, I hope they also feel and experience ownership of the piece - that they don't just play what I tell them to do, but come with an important, creative input, which also makes it ‘their’ piece. And I think and hope, that this will also be felt by the audience."
Time and place
- Li-Ying Wu: Flamboyer
- The Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Twincussion with conductor Alondra de la Parra
- 11 May, 19:30, DR Koncerthuset, Copenhagen
Find more information about the concert here.
Find the press release from the Danish National Symphony Orchestra (in Danish) here.