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Composer's Notes for Elixir: Music for Moving and Still Meditation

The title of the first song, Lunhui, means "circle." The piece begins with gong and chimes (common percussions in ancient Chinese music), and Beijing opera style percussion. The melody is played with the sounds of zheng (an ancient type of zither), dizi (flute), and erhu. This piece is a nice accompaniment to moving meditation, such as the Taiji form.

The second song, Wandering, is inspired by Daoist philosophy. It combines musical styles from Shandong and Henan provinces, the native place of Laozi. Two differently tuned erhus and the zheng play the melody, and traditional monastic wood blocks are used for percussion. This is an entirely improvised composition.

The third through fifth pieces are a serial work, all musical expressions of various sensations and experiences encountered in meditation. The third piece is a musical representation of the ethereal experience at the beginning of standing meditation, when the head is touching heaven and the feet are connected to earth, and the inner feeling when the three things (heaven, human body, and earth) merge to oneness. The fourth piece, Purification, is similarly a musical expression of experiences in sitting meditation. The fifth piece, Circulation, expresses one type of feeling that may flow from the quiescence of meditation, the physical feeling that the heart is warm and blood and energy is flowing, and an accompanying emotion of love and beauty. This song begins with a western classical style motif, and flows into an improvised melody that is a combination of jazz, blues, and traditional Chinese music.

The Chinese believe that all of nature is a source of vital energy, or qi, and the beauty of nature has always been a source of inspiration in Chinese music. The portrait in Morning Immersion is one of the rapture of breathing in pure air in the early morning in a pristine forest, with the birds beginning to sing and the calming sounds of a mountain stream in the background.

The final composition, Aspiring Emptiness, includes an electronic combination of two types of zithers - the zheng and qin - and improvised ehru melodies. The qin is an ancient instrument that was a favorite of Chinese literati.


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