Performance Today®

with host Fred Child

Le Pont Mirabeau: new music by Wang Jie

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Composer Wang Jie and cellist Timotheos Petrin deep in musical conversation Fred Child

This spring, 130 PT listeners joined me on an 11-day musical tour of Paris and Normandy. Cellist Timotheos Petrin was the trip's Artist-in-Residence, Wang Jie was Composer-in-Residence. Wang Jie gave herself the challenge of writing a piece during the trip, inspired by the trip, in an open and interactive process, sharing it with our travelers as it was being created. The world premiere was on the last full day of the tour, May 2nd, at the Impressionist Museum in Giverny. Wang Jie's composition is for cello, piano, and narrator, with text by Guillaume Apollonaire, his 1912 poem, Le Pont Mirabeau (The Mirabeau Bridge). Wang Jie chose the poem without even realizing how appropriate it was - we had boarded our river ship in Paris as it was docked right by that very bridge over the Seine, and we disembarked at the end of the trip at that same spot.

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Composer and pianist Wang Jie Fred Child

A musical theme for the piece was "chosen" on the first day of the trip by the PT listeners who were with us. They put their names in a hat; we drew nine names at random, and the first letter of each selected name gave us a series of nine musical notes. The letters drawn: B-D-K-T (blank) D-B-R-B-M. The letter B is the note B-flat (in German musical parlance). D is D, of course. Wang Jie turned the other letters into notes using Olivier Messiaen's system, and she interpreted the surprise blank slip of paper as a musical rest after the fourth note.

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Notes from Wang Jie's composition of Le Pont Mirabeau Fred Child

Wang Jie has that theme appear seven times in the piece - once for each port of call where our ship was docked along the Seine. You can hear the theme most clearly on the piano at 6:33, as I narrate the poem's refrain: "the days go by, and I remain," and the theme is then immediately echoed by the cello. Was it pure coincidence that the rhythm of the musical theme exactly matches the rhythm of the poem's refrain? Was it, indeed.

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Fred Child, Wang Jie, and Timotheos Petrin Ellie McKinnie

Enjoy this video of the premiere of Wang Jie's music, and this performance by cellist Timotheos Petrin, composer Wang Jie at the piano, and yours truly narrating Apollonaire's poem.