National Piano & Violin Competition 2021: Set Pieces

Participants in the Artist and Senior categories for both violin and piano are required to perform a set piece in the semi-finals. This is in addition to their full solo programme and concertos. The piece is always written by a local composer: for the 2021 edition, the composer is Tan Yuting.

Composer: Tan Yuting

Singaporean composer Tan Yuting writes music which explores the interaction of different sounds to form unique harmonies and textures. Her music has been recognized with awards including first prize in the Macht Orchestral Composition Competition (2018), first prize in the Virginia Carty DeLillo Composition Competition (2018), and third prize in the Prix d’Été Competition (2017) at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, and has been performed in Singapore, USA, UK, Thailand, New Zealand, and Italy. Past collaborations include performances by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Peabody Symphony Orchestra, National Sawdust Ensemble, Tacet(i) Ensemble, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, Empyrean Ensemble, ~Nois, Alarm Will Sound, Now Hear This, Unassisted Fold, and Ensemble Soundinitiative. Yuting also enjoys working with artists from other fields and creating music in collaboration with other art forms. She has worked with Singaporean poet, Dr. Tan Chee Lay, to create a song cycle about Singapore’s Chinatown. In 2019, she performed her original live score for the USA premiere screening of Chinese film pioneer Shouju Zhu’s 1925 film Stormy Night (Fengyu zhi ye).

Yuting is currently pursuing a PhD in Music Composition at the University of Chicago on a full fellowship from the Division of the Humanities. She also holds Master of Music degrees in Music Composition and Music Theory Pedagogy from The Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, and a Joint Bachelor of Music Degree in Music Composition with Honours (Highest Distinction), awarded jointly by the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (National University of Singapore) and the Peabody Institute.

Gasing

Gasing (Piano Artist)

Gasing is a Malay spinning top that is spun from a string. To launch a gasing, players coil a string tightly around the gasing and throw it while holding onto one end of the string. The game of gasing may be played competitively, where the winner is determined by the gasing that spins for the longest duration or the gasing that knocks the opponent’s gasing out of the playing area. This piece musically depicts the gestures involved in launching a gasing and the motion of the spinning tops in a competitive game of gasing. To open the piece, the two imaginary gasing players, each represented by one hand, taunt each other while coiling the strings around their gasing. A playful battle of gasing ensues with the tops spinning and colliding into each other. As the game progresses, the music evolves into a whirling fantasy, evoking the dizzying, swirling, and spiralling world of a spinning gasing. Finally, the gasing spins slower and slower, eventually tipping over and ending the game.

Kuti-Kuti (Piano Senior)

Kuti-Kuti is a game where players take turns to flick and flip plastic tokens onto each other. The player that successfully flips their token onto the opponent’s token wins the round and keeps both tokens. The winner is the one who has the most tokens at the end. A slightly more modern variation of the game uses “country erasers” (rectangular erasers with country flags printed on them) instead of the original colourful plastic tokens. In most of this piece, each hand represents one token in a round of kuti-kuti, as the hands take turns to chase and overlap each other. The slower middle section features flashes of rapid figurations, which mirror the flipping and flicking kuti-kuti tokens.

Chapteh (Violin Artist)

In a game of chapteh, players kick a feathered shuttlecock continuously to keep it in the air for as long as possible. Players begin the game by dropping the chapteh or throwing it upwards. To keep the chapteh airborne, players typically kick it with their heel, foot, or knee, but are not allowed to touch the chapteh with their hands. The various motions and sounds in a game of chapteh are depicted in this piece through a wide range of playing techniques. Harmonic arpeggios, glissandi, and ricochet bowings sonically depict the chapteh soaring through the air and falling. The extensive use of pizzicato reflects the bouncing motion of the chapteh, and also evokes the sounds of kicking the chapteh and the chapteh’s eventual landing on the ground.

Five Stones (Violin Senior)

Five Stones is a game usually played on the ground, where players throw, pick up, and catch the stones in different combinations with only one hand. Although traditionally played with real stones, pyramid-shaped cloth bags that are filled with grain or sand are more commonly used nowadays. To begin each level of the game, players throw all five stones on the ground. The first level involves throwing one stone into the air, picking up another from the ground, and catching the falling first stone before it touches the ground. This repeats until all the stones are caught in one hand. In the next few levels of the game, the player similarly throws up one stone but picks up more stones from the ground each time before catching the falling stone. Throughout the piece, the number “five” features prominently, beginning with the opening motif which features five pitches, a quintuplet, followed by a dyad held for five beats. The gestures involved in playing a game of five stones are also mirrored musically – the falling appoggiaturas reflect the throwing of the stones to the ground at the beginning of the game and the left-hand pizzicato represent the picking up of stones from the ground.