The Other Merlion & Friends
text by Dr. Gwee Li Sui
ensemble countertenor & piano
duration 13 mins
written Spring 2016
written for Chan Wei En
premiered 22 July 2016, The Arts House, Singapore
For the longest time - five years, maybe - I’ve dreamt of combining Singapore literature and Singaporean music: the problem was finding the right text to set!
Being a sham of a half-poet, I attempted to write my own text, but nothing resonated quite like the moment I found Dr Gwee’s poems in Kinokuniya — I actually cried out loud, “This is it! This is it!” The rhythms and melodies instantly popped into my head; the themes were en-pointe, the tones flying from whimsical to wistful to outrightly outrageous. It was to be a blissful marriage of literary and musical styles, as I heard it in my head.
Being in love with the text made the whole compositional process extremely enjoyable. I started first with Special Occasion, which practically wrote itself. I next took on what I felt to be the most schizophrenic song in the set, City Life. It took me a while to eke out the music, especially the Prologue, upon which I inscribed “towering monoliths of grey symmetry… the patina of modernity shines with a terrible clarity” (I certainly hope that gets across!) The Visitor followed, and I can only say I had the most raucous fun with this song. Godly Advice and The Cat-Woman rounded up the set, both displaying Baroque and Romantic sensibilities respectively — my way of paying homage to the great masters.