A portfolio of new compositions, exploring aspects of Sichuan traditions

  • Huan Li

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


My research reflects Sichuan traditional and folk culture through the composition of eight original works: Shi for String Orchestra; Qin Song for flute, piano, violin and cello; Armour Dance for a large ensemble; Ink and Colour for clarinet, cello and piano; Yi suite for a large ensemble; Lost and Renewed for string quintet; Silhouette for prepared piano; Impression of Sichuan Drama for soprano and two percussionists. These works are presented through musical scores, one recording (Yi) and a written commentary. The commentary accompanying this portfolio of new compositions begins by drawing and translating tone colour from a fundamental element: yin qiang - a concept of single tone - in Sichuan classical and traditional music, influenced by Chou Wen-Chung and Isang Yun and their concepts, towards the creation of timbral structures (with my own work). Through exploring Sichuan traditions, including the music of Tan Dun and Chen Yi, I utilise the characteristics of Sichuan folk customs, reimagined through contemporary compositional practice, including contemporary performing techniques and styles, in order to explore the balance of sonority when combining Chinese traditional instruments with Western forces. Inspired by the different approaches and musical ideas of Unsuk Chin, Ge Gan-Ru, and John Cage, my compositions were gradually created by a broader thinking, not only focusing on sound balance, but also exploring tone colours through the extension of sound layers. This commentary reveals the process of my influences, creative approaches and aesthetics on a variety of themes within Sichuan traditions of music and folk customs. Finally, it concludes with some ideas and experiences for further research including working with performers, artists and places.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorOliver Iredale Searle (Supervisor)


  • Sichuan
  • Traditional folk culture
  • Contemporary music

Access Status

  • Full text open

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