Eight Hundred Bowls
oboe (may be transcribed for sheng)
大堂鼓 (1) Datanggu DTG (or 花盆鼓 Huapengu), with mallets and brushes
排鼓 (4) Paigu, with wooden mallets
瓷碗 (3) Ceramic Bowls, with wooden chopsticks and bass/cello bow
EIGHT HUNDRED BOWLS was written for Yvonne Tay, guzheng soloist of Dingyi Ensemble, to be performed while a chef prepares and cooks 拉面 (lā miàn) on the concert Music Kneads《筝材食疗 音与食通》. The instrumentation of eastern and western instruments represents the four categories of - wind, strings, plucked, and percussive musical instruments (吹拉弹打). The connection to the culinary preparation of lamian and the interaction with the master chef of the restaurant 800 BOWLS threaded together the dramatic gestures of the noodle-making, with the creation of the musical texture and flow.
The three main phases of the lamian making process are
1. 甩面 shuǎi miàn - throwing of the dough
2. 油条 yóu tiáo - spirals
3. 拉面 lā miàn - pulling of the noodle
From watching Chef Hao making the lamian, what impressed me was that the physical strength required to manage the dough was equally important to the finesse in the smooth gestures of pulling the noodles. For me it translates beautifully to the ‘scholarly’ and ‘martial’ qualities of the guzheng, an instrument that can sound mightily powerful (as in 战台风) as well as sublimely lyrical and flowing (as in 高山流水). The percussion writing also holds another sonic connection to the lamian, especially with the percussive sounds of shuai mian and the sounds of chopsticks and bow on ceramic bowls.