Pink Elephant in Prentis
Pink Elephant in Prentis (2018)
for Alto Sheng, Soprano, and Orchestra
Commissioned by Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra (China)
2 Clarinets in B-Flat
1 Bass Clarinet
4 Horns in F
2 Trumpets in C
Timpani (32", 29", 26", 23", 20")
Lion's Roar (String Drum)
Thunder Sheet (height <1.5m)
2 Suspended Cymbals (22")
Marimba (4.3 oct.)
Nipple Gong in G
Medium Gong of any pitch
Large Gong (Tam-Tam)
CRT Monitor/Broken Glass
Soprano or Alto
16 Violin I
16 Violin II
Additional sound engineer required
Prentis Hall, situated in Manhattan, New York City, holds a significant chapter of my life, between 2014 to 2016. During that time, I found myself residing within its walls, a unique experience of creatively improvising with the facilities at hand. Constructed in 1909, Prentis Hall originally served as a pasteurization facility and milk bottling plant. Later, it transformed into a Heat Transfer Research Facility, contributing to nuclear research and experiments during the Manhattan Project. In 1949, Columbia University took ownership of the building, and it has since become a haven for creative exploration.
A notable part of Prentis Hall's history is its role as the home of Columbia University's Computer Music Center, a hub for sonic innovation since the 1950s, known back then as the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. Immersed in the Computer Music Center's realm, my days and nights were consumed by the fascinating world of sound. My tools encompassed an array of analog and digital synthesizers, tape recorders, CTR monitors, and other intriguing equipment that were unfamiliar to me at the outset. The vibrant atmosphere within Prentis Hall extended beyond music, as the building provided studios for visual artists. This fortuitous arrangement led to encounters with a myriad of eccentric artists, resulting in engaging conversations spanning from the profound to the trivial.
Nestled on 125th Street in Manhattan, Prentis Hall was perpetually enveloped in a symphony of urban sounds. The resonating vibrations of the New York City Subway (which runs aboveground for the 125th Street Station), the ceaseless flow of traffic from nearby highways, the vivacious energy of the city streets, and the clamor of construction sites all contributed to the unique auditory landscape. Nights brought a cacophony from the metal and wood shops within Prentis, their screeches becoming an unexpected source of inspiration. In the midst of this auditory tapestry, a surreal vision unfolded one night—a colossal pink elephant meandering through the narrow corridors of Prentis. Its front half embodied the appearance of a standard wild elephant, yet as my gaze traveled toward its rear, the form became increasingly pixelated, akin to blocks from a Minecraft game. The elephant's progression left behind pixelated remnants, akin to droplets of water falling from a drenched creature.
I rubbed my eyes and shook my head, certain that I have entered a dream at some point during the night. I cautiously approached, observing its rhythmic expansion and contraction, a mesmerizing dance of organic and pixelated elements. The silence was shattered by a sudden noise behind me, startling the pink elephant from its slumber. With an air of fury, it rose onto its pixelated hind legs and retreated into the corridors, shedding even more 3D blocks as it moved. The organic front swelled inexplicably, while the pixelated rear disintegrated into fragments that littered the floor. In a swift and astonishing transformation, the inflated front split from its pixelated counterpart, bursting into thin air with a deafening pop, leaving behind an array of pink 3D blocks strewn across the corridors of Prentis Hall. This surreal journey within the walls of Prentis Hall has left an indelible imprint on my memory, a testament to the boundless possibilities that unfold within the walls of this out-of-ordinary building.
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