Title Close at Distance
Description Yang Qin + orchestra
Year 2008
Instrumentation Yang Qin solo (amplified), orch: 3(1)-3(1)-3(2)-3(1) alsax 4-3-3-1 perc:3 timp hp pf str
Duration 5 min
Commissioned by Nordic Composers' council in collaboration with Présences festival and Shanghai Music Spring
Premiere Shanghai Music Spring, 11 May 2008, soloist: Cao Yun. Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, cond.Terje Mikkelsen


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"Close at distance" was written over the Chinese folk tune 天涯歌女 which translates as "Skyline Alme" or ”A wandering girl singer". In the poem, the girl says she she went to the end of the sky, at the edge of the sea, to find someone that listens to her music. I thought, distance is also interesting. Maybe there can be distance and separation in the music, and still we can understand. I called my piece ”Close at distance”. You will have to listen very carefully in order to hear fragments of the tune.

As soon as I found this tune, I started to communicate with Cao Yun, my Yang Qin soloist. Yang Qin is a string instrument played with mallets, related to the Hungarian Cimbalom. I sent her small sketches of music on e-mail, then she recorded it and mailed me the soundfiles. Overnight, Shanghai came very close.

I was amazed, I could correct my music and adapt it to the Yang Qin instrument. When we finally met for the first rehearsal in Shanghai, I felt we were very well prepared. The rehearsal days could be spend exploring our understanding of the music.

The project was a part of "Presences China" initiated by René Bosc of Présences festival, Paris, under the supervision of Chinese composer Qigang Chen. Four Norwegian and four Danish composers were given the opportunity to work with a Chinese folk musician and the Symphony Orchestra.

A great collaboration project, I am very happy for the opportunity to take part.

Nils Henrik Asheim