Plum Blossoms (electroacoustic version) (1999) · 6 min

Electroacoustic based on samples from pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen

Electroacoustic, pipa

Program Note

Described as “ultra-exotic” by the Los Angeles Times, Plum Blossoms uses as its source material audio samples performed by the Chinese pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen, recorded with the assistance of David Wessel at U.C. Berkeley’s CNMAT (Center for New Music and Audio Technologies) in 1996. A few years later, as a first year Assistant Professor at Northeastern University, I “scattered and reconstituted” (LA Times) these samples via cutting, splicing, transposing, reversing, and changing speeds, using the software tools BIAS Peak, and MOTU’s Digital Performer, with the goal of gaining acceptance to the 1999 International Computer Music Conference (ICMC), held that year at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

Little did I know that this experience would initiate a twenty-year trajectory of work with Chinese traditional instruments and travel to China that would profoundly affect my life, including a residency at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing as a Senior Fulbright Research Scholar (2011), and later an appointment as a “Special Professor” at the China Conservatory of Music’s new Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Chinese National School of Music (2016).

The very opening of Plum Blossoms briefly references the well-known Chinese composition Dance of the Yi People before devolving into increasingly noise-based elements. Not long after its premiere, Min Xiao-Fen requested a version to be performed live, which I created for pipa solo, electronic sounds, strings, and glockenspiel, premiered by the San Diego Symphony under the baton of maestro Jung-Ho Pak in January 2000.

After several performances in both its electroacoustic and orchestral versions, Plum Blossoms was featured in an article by John Winzenburg titled “Spanning the Timbral Divide: Insiders, Outsiders, and Novelty in Chinese-Western Fusion Concertos,” in the edited volume China and the West: Music, Representation, and Reception (2017) published by the University of Michigan Press.


“Anthony De Ritis’ ‘Plum Blossoms’ took as its source recordings by pipa player Min Xiao-Fen, then scattered and reconstituted them into an ultra-exotic construct.”

 – Joseph Woodward, Los Angeles Times; January 15, 2002


The pipa samples used in Plum Blossoms were performed by Min Xiao-Fen and recorded in 1996, by David Wessel at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT), Berkeley, CA; it was officially released by Albany Records (TROY1710) on Anthony Paul De Ritis: Electroacoustic Music – In Memoriam: David Wessel on April 1, 2018

Concert Programs

Granier, Benoit. “Language and Culture Intertwinement in Music: An effort to develop intercultural language (and notation) in Music.” In Mary Sherman (Ed.) International Opportunities in the Arts. Vernon Press. Wilmington, Delaware. (September 3, 2019).


De Ritis, Anthony (2018, January 1). “Music and Cultural Diplomacy.” In Kimasi L. Browne (English) and Zhang Boyu (Ed.), in Musicking the Soul (Published in English and Chinese). Beijing: Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM) Press. Beijing, China.


Winzenburg, John. “Spanning the Timbral Divide: Insiders, Outsiders, and Novelty in Chinese-Western Fusion Concertos,” in Yang, Hon-Lun, and Saffle, Michael (Eds.). China and the West: Music, Representation, and Reception. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press (2017).