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Pink Elephant in Prentis


Pink Elephant in Prentis (2018)


for Alto Sheng, Soprano, and Orchestra

Commissioned by Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra (China)

ca.11 min.​


2 Flutes

2 Oboes

2 Clarinets in B-Flat

1 Bass Clarinet

2 Bassoons

4 Horns in F

2 Trumpets in C

2 Trombones

1 Tuba

Timpani (32", 29", 26", 23", 20")


Bass Drum

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

Alto Sheng

Keyboard (Any)

Soprano or Alto



16 Violin I

16 Violin II

8 Viola

6 Cello

4 Contrabass

Additional sound engineer required

Score, Electronics and Video

Watch audio-score video HERE

Purchase PDF full score (USD25) HERE.

Program Note

Prentis Hall is a building in New York City, where I spent a year (2015-2016) living in a sleeping bag and taking showers in the toilet. Prentis was built in 1909 and was initially designed as a pasteurization facility and milk bottling plant, then later used as a Heat Transfer Research Facility, conducting nuclear research and experiments, during the Manhattan Project. Columbia University acquired the building in 1949, and the building has housed Columbia’s Computer Music Center (then Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center) from the 1950s onwards. During my time there at the Computer Music Center, I have spent my days and nights exploring stimulating sounds using both analog and digital synthesizers, tape recorders, CTR monitors, and other equipments unfamiliar to me back then. Aside from the Computer Music Center, the building also housed studios for visual artists, and so I was able to meet many eccentric artists, where we ended up having long conversations every night on both significant and insignificant issues surrounding us. Located on 125th Street in Manhattan, the “residents” of Prentis Hall were constantly harassed by the rumblings of the New York City Subway (which runs aboveground for 125th Street Station), the traffic from the highway nearby, the bustling of the streets of New York, and the construction noises from the nearby building sites. At nights, the screeching noises from the metal shop and the wood shop constantly rang throughout the building. At one point in time, the noise inspired me to imagine a gigantic pink elephant running through the narrow corridors of Prentis. The head and front half of the body was seemingly a normal elephant found in the wild. However, as I scanned my eyes further back, the body of the animal seemed to become more and more pixelated, and small 3D blocks were clearly visible on its back and hind legs, as if molded by an amateur creator in a Minecraft game. As the elephant advanced, some blocks fell onto the floor like water droplets falling from an animal soaked in water. I rubbed my eyes and shook my head, certain that I have entered a dream at some point during the night. The pink elephant walked past me and wandered into one of the many rooms the building offered. I timidly peeked into the room where the pink elephant disappeared into. The pink elephant seemed to have collapsed on the floor, its body, both the organic front and the pixelated back, expanding and shrinking as it sluggishly inhaled and exhaled oxygen. After hours of staring at the pink elephant, I jumped back at a sudden startling noise from behind, which woke the pink elephant from its deep slumber. Furious, the pink elephant stood on its two pixelated hind legs, and stomped out into the corridors again, this time shaking off more 3D blocks from its back than when it first arrived. The organic front seemed to start to bloat up like a balloon for reasons unknown to me, and the pixelated back grew smaller and smaller due to its parts crumbling down on the floor. In a blink of an eye, the inflated front side split from its pixelated rear, then with a deafening pop, exploded into thin air like a burst balloon. What was left were the pink 3D blocks of all sizes, scattered around on the corridors of Prentis Hall.

Past Performances

Dec. 7, 2018 (World Premiere)

Hearing China 2018

[Audio-Score Archive]

Shanghai Symphony Hall

Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra (Cond. Zhang Liang)

As Soundtrack

"The Rearview Landscape Series": Im Abendrot (2022)

Performance Installation by Xiaoshi Vivian Vivian Qin

© Chatori Shimizu. All Rights Reserved.

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