Aurora is commissioned by Longleash Piano Trio from the Loretto Project. The title has two hierarchies of connotations. The piece is inspired by the image of the solar lights that occur in the Arctic. The thickness of solar lights directly influences the visibility of the stars behind them. I divided this visibility into three degrees, from completely visible to partly visible to, finally, almost invisible. Therefore, the piece has three sections, starting with dry attacks toward partly pedaled (sustained) and then to continuous sustained sound by using Ebows on the strings inside of the piano.
On the other hand, Aurora also reflects the word itself, which shares the same name with the dawn goddess in Roman mythology. The goddess Aurora fell in love with a human named Tithonus, the prince of Troy. She asked Jupiter to grant Tithonus immortality. Jupiter fulfilled her wish, but Aurora had failed to ask for eternal youth to accompany Tithonus’ immortality, and he became forever old. Aurora finally left him and turned him into a cicada. With this in mind, the length of the first two sections of the piece is based on the names Aurora and Tithonus. Moreover, the first section is only focused on the high range to reflect the “star” and “goddess.” At the beginning of the second section, I put every register together to reflect the combination of “god” and “human.” The irregular repeated patterns gradually break to express the idea of unsatisfied progress, implying the bad ending to Aurora and Tithonus’ relationship, which is also anticipated by a Tristan chord at the end of the first section. The sustained Ebow sound in the last section is based on the harmonics of the cicada pitch. Techniques such as vibration and friction are directly inspired by a cicada’s scream.
The story of Aurora recalls my concern over the topic of immortality. Many ancient Chinese kings spent a lot of effort and resources researching how to become immortal. Before I composed Aurora, I read an article that said that human could significantly expand their life, and even become “immortal” through genetic technology after 50 years. The story of Aurora questions whether immortality is actually a positive idea. Similar thoughts can be found in a computer game called Planescape: Torment, published in 1999. The hero, “The Nameless One,” is constantly tortured over the fact that he cannot die. He says, “time is my enemy! I will defeat it!” However, a female role called “Fall from Grace” responds, “time is not your enemy. Forever is.”
Sample Score of AURORA: