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Three Tea Houses in Chengdu

Teahouses are more than just places where tea is served: they are places where people go for conversation, or to conduct business. In China they traditionally fulfilled the same function as coffeehouses in England, and the city of Chengdu is particular known for its teahouse culture.

This quartet (for the unusually grouping of two altos, bass, and contra) is about conversation: voices sometimes debating, sometimes fighting, and sometimes coming together in harmony. The fighting part comes through in the first section that has extended hocket between the altos. Harmony, in the second section, is a pretty trick when the highest and lowest instrument have exactly one note in common. But that’s whatit’s about: getting unlikely voices together. The third section is based on earlier material and introduces a traditional Chinese melody.

This composition made the finals of the 2019 Composers Competition of the (British) Society of Recorder Players. It is now for sale on Score Exchange.

Three Tea Houses in Chengdu