Shui. Life. (2012) · 5 min

for erhu, 4-speaker audio, and video projection

erhu, fixed media (Mac laptop running Max/MSP), optional video projection

Commissioned by the Melody for Dialogues Among Civilizations Association; written for Guo Gan

Program Note

Shui. Life. was written for Chinese erhu, 4-speaker audio, and video projection. It was commissioned by Mehri Madarshahi, Director of the Melody for Dialogue Among Civilizations Association (MDACA), for a multicultural concert and international forum titled “Water as the Crisis of our Future.” Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the great French explorer Jacques Cousteau, keynoted the event, which featured Guo Gan, erhu, at the Merkin Concert Hall, New York, NY, on the occasion of World Water Day, March 22, 2012. Shui. Life. was also presented at the Italian Pavilion at the 2015 World Exposition in Milan, Italy (September 21, 2015), once again featuring Guo Gan, as part of the “Water Rooms” Project for a Sustainable World, launched by UNESCO to raise awareness of the importance of the interconnection between water, food, energy, and the environment.

Shui. Life. has received several additional performances, inducing at “SoundShapes: Music, Images, Movement,” David Friend Hall, Berklee College of Music, March 27, 2013; and as part of the welcome concert event for new Fulbright fellows hosted by the Massachusetts Chapter of the Fulbright Association; Paine Hall, Harvard University, on October 18, 2019.

The erhu is a versatile two-stringed bowed musical instrument used in solo performance, in small ensembles, and as one of a section within Chinese orchestras. It is the most popular of the huqin family of traditional bowed string instruments used by various ethnic groups of China. Shui. Life. includes some extended techniques for erhu, including several types of glissandi, moments of “ad lib” improvisation based on predetermined pitch collections, and use of graphic notation.

In performance, Shui. Life. is synchronized with a video montage of water images compiled by designer Maureen Ton. The audio accompaniment consists of a series of processed and unprocessed water sounds, played back using Max/MSP; special thanks to Briann Dixon for her assistance in accessing and editing the water-based samples. An official recording of Shui. Life. was made by Lin Zhantao, erhu, at the Distler Performance Hall at Tufts University’s Granoff Music Center, on June 2, 2013; and released by Albany Records (TROY1710) on Anthony Paul De Ritis: Electroacoustic Music – In Memoriam: David Wessel, on April 1, 2018.

View Score

Public domain water samples were accessed by Briann Dixon; solo featuring Lin Zhantao, erhu, was recorded on June 2, 2013, Distler Performance Hall, Tufts University, by Joel Gordon. Mixed and mastered by Anthony De Ritis and Joel Gordon. Shui. Life was officially released by Albany Records (TROY1710) on Anthony Paul De Ritis: Electroacoustic Music – In Memoriam: David Wessel, April 1, 2018.

Shui. Life (2012) by Anthony Paul De Ritis for erhu, 4-speaker audio, and video projection; Lin Zhantao, erhu; Maureen Ton, video projection

Poster, Fulbright Association Massachusetts Chapter, Paine Concert Hall, Harvard University, October 18, 2019 [poster] 

Announcement, “Launch of ‘The Water Rooms'” — UNESCO and 2015 World Expo, Milan, Italy; September 21, 2015 [announcement] 

Announcement, “‘Water Rooms’ Project for a Sustainable World”; September 21, 2015 [announcement] 

Poster, “SoundShapes: Music, Images, Movement” at David Friend Hall, Berklee College of Music, March 27, 2013 [poster] 

Program Book, “Water: The Global Challenge of Our Future, International Forum,” Center for Global Affairs, New York University; and Merkin Concert Hall, New York City, NYU March 22-23, 2012 [program book]