Sotto Voce (2006/2008) by Yao Chen
for flute and piano
West Coast premiere

The title Sotto Voce (Italian) literally means "In soft tones, as not to be overly heard; in an undertone." Sotto voce is the voice that is not overly pronounced and not overly heard, and it is an aural perception that only exists in comparison to and in relationship with other voices. This inspires me. This piece contextualizes sotto voce through a chain of shifting textures and diverse sonic trajectories within a highly dramatic form. For any attentive listeners, Sotto Voce can be captured in these relationships: the inter-supporting relationship between flute and piano, the interdependent relationship between two hands of the pianist, the inter-shadowing relationship between the flute sound and the humming of the flutist, and the intertwining relationship between the harmonic consonance and dissonance, and between diatonicism and chromaticism.

The performance aims for a mysterious, colorful and dramatic exploration in expressions, dynamics and melodic gestures. In addition, with a possibility of special performing environment as well the players’ interest and ability, the performance can be executed within a delicate theatrical staging design. The extramusical elements can be carried out through stage lighting, costumes, and physical movements of the players. The goal is to effectively create a visual sotto voce to correspond with the sonic Sotto Voce.

Sotto Voce was originally commissioned by the A. N. and Pearl G. Barnett Foundation, written for its 2006-2007 flute competition.

— Y. C.    

[from program for March 18, 2013 concert]