Landscapes (1949) employs three traditional Chinese melodies to create three “landscapes:” “Under the Cliff in the Bay,” “The Sorrow of Parting,” and “One Streak of Dying Light.” The poems, postdating these melodies associated with them by centuries, are in the composer’s translation.
Old fisherman, with a fishing rod,
Under the cliff, in the bay,
Sailing a small boat freely here and there;
Dots of sea gulls afar over the light waves,
Expanse of rustling reeds chilly under the bright sky;
Singing a song aloud with the sun setting low;
All of a sudden, the waves rock in golden light;
Looking up — the moon has climbed over the eastern hill.
— Cheng Hsieh (1693-1765)
My carriage has barely paused,
yet he is already beyond the plains,
In no time, far away at the edge of the sky.
Pleasant dreams tonight — where can they be found?
Instead, only the sound of the temple bell,
the midnight rain, the ravens’ cry at the break of dawn.
Too grieved to face the fallen petals floating in the wind,
Too frightened to see the evening sunlight reflect in the clouds;
The sorrow of parting — I tell it to the lute.
Broken heart left at the river — into whose courtyard has it been
Dreams are coming, the candle is flickering, pillows awry.
— Ting P’eng (c. 1661)
Green, green the grass west of the pavilion,
The clouds low, the cries of the wild geese faint,
Two lines of sparse willows,
One streak of dying light,
Hundreds of homing ravens dotting the sky.
— Liu Chi (1311-1375)
“[Chou’s] landscapes made adroit and imaginative use of ancient Chinese tunes, are colorful, nostalgic, allusive, and extremely brief. They bridge the gap between Oriental and Occidental with exceptional success.”
— Alfred Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle