Notes for Gu-Zheng Machine [新箏] 2011


When I was faced with the task of writing a piece for string quartet and traditional

Chinese instrument, I knew right away that I wanted to use the gu-zheng. I had seen a remarkable and beautiful performance given by 葉時華 in New York about a year ago at Merkin Concert Hall. I introduced myself to her after the performance because I knew that I wanted to learn more about the instrument.


I have always been interested in the intersection between acoustic and electronic music. For this piece, I wanted to create the illusion of a super-gu-zheng using all at my disposal using an acoustic string quartet. In this piece, the quartet serves as a bionic extension of the gu-zheng. The gestures performed by the gu-zheng are sustained, amplified, and ornamented by the string quartet. If the gu-zheng were the actor in a movie, the string quartet is the special effects team. Taking advantage of the abilities of this new machine this piece explores tremendous extremes, from very slow, glacial, sustained figurations, to very rapid movements.


Many thanks to 葉時華 for all her help and good counsel, and to 馬水龍 for all his generous support and encouragement.



Justine F. Chen


New York, NY

April 17, 2011