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The Fabricator of Joy, Op. 17


[sample score]


Alternative title: 作樂,作品 17

Year of composition: 2023

Instrumentation: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, piano

Movement names and durations:

I. Grave, molto doloroso (3 mins)

II. Joy. Joy. Joy. (5½ mins)

Total: 8½ mins

Commissioned by: Ensemble Fioritura


World premiere:

Ensemble Fioritura

2023 Jun 21・French May Arts Festival: Modern Sound of Winds I・Lee Hysan Concert Hall, CUHK, Hong Kong

For publicity needs or other reasons, there seems to be a compulsive obsession in our world today for the display of joy and positivity regardless of realistic circumstances. The Fabricator of Joy is a portrait of such a mighty social structure that systematically tames its subjects into numbness, into truly believing that the images of joy they repetitively produce are joy itself. The subjects are conditioned to deny all suggestions of a flawed reality and carry out their mechanical duty to rejoice.

The quintet is written in two movements. The first is essentially a motet for the four wind instruments based entirely on the grievous theme stated by the solitary bassoon. An episode of relatively tonal sequences gives the piece its only instance of fleeting warmth before plunging back into rigorous polyphony and almost being coerced by the piano into settling into a cadence. The second movement is the pièce de résistance of the work. The theme of apparent joy is set against sounds imitative of machinery after its unison statement opening the movement. As it develops, it becomes clear that such joy is diluted by forces almost malign: the towering manufacturer of supposed happiness is clouded by growing ominosity and its products, laughter, are forced and acerbic. Towards the end, the subjects desperately pull out all stops to convince themselves their life is ‘Joy. Joy. Joy.’

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