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The Decay of Lying, Op. 1


[sample score]


Alternative title: 謊言的衰朽,作品 1

Year of composition: 2014/18

Instrumentation: 2 violins, viola, cello

Duration: 7 mins


World Premiere (1st version):

Ambrose Fu (vln), Edwin Cheng (vln), Jacky Yung (vla), Yan-ho Cheng (vc)

2014 Dec 1・Composition Concert 2014・Lee Hysan Concert Hall, CUHK, Hong Kong

‘Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art.’

—Oscar Wilde, (1891)


The Decay of Lying is a commentary on Oscar Wilde’s dialogue of the same name. In his work, Wilde argues in favour of the fin-de-siècle movement of Aestheticism. ‘The highest art,’ he argues, ‘rejects the burden of the human spirit.’ The composer believes otherwise: art, as a human experience, either draws its essence from life and presents it with integrity, however flawed it is, or lapses into empty gestures.

The work is a fugue on a twelve-tone subject, initially set against a tonal context it attempts to cope with. Along its arduous journey of metamorphosis, which cycles through all twelve tonal centres structured according to the subject, the beautiful façade of tonality falls off piece by piece and cumulates into a climactic breakdown before the subject, or the ‘true self’, finally has to pick itself up, goes through permutations structured, again, on itself and travels on his way of solitude. Although battered by reality, the only redemption it finds is through self-recognition by embracing life’s imperfections. All motivic materials, including the three countersubjects and the episodes, are derived from the subject and, thus, are metaphorical projections of oneself.

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