...chinese whispers...

This piece looks to reinterpret elements of Chinese oral traditions within a musical context. There are thus sounds inspired on the one hand by Chinese musics, namely Chinese opera and ritualistic singing; and on the other, sounds inspired by the Cantonese language itself, using for instance the different ‘tones’ that make up the language as registral ‘mannerisms’ or ‘behaviours’.

My grasp of Chinese has never been very good, much to my mother’s frustration, and my ability to pronounce tones accurately is particularly lacking. I imagine that I am playing a game of ‘Chinese Whispers’, and I am at the end of the line, and my message is always wrong.

How to play ‘Chinese Whispers’ (or ‘Telephone’ in the United States):

Players should form a line.


The first player invents a message to say, and whispers it to the second person in line.


The second player then passes the message as they heard it to the third.


This process repeats until the message has been passed fully along the line.


Each player may only whisper the message once.


When the last player to receives the message, they should announce it as they heard it from the penultimate player and compare it to the initial message.

You may also be interested in Spiralling Scrolls.

Year: 2018

Instrumentation: Three singers (SSA)

Duration: 6'

Premiered by: Juice Vocal Ensemble at Cheltenham Music Festival in July 2018

Other performances: Broadcast on BBC Late Junction in July 2019; broadcast on Soho Radio in February 2020

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17 November 2020

Above the White Island - digital release

Commissioned by National Opera Studio

24 August 2020

Untold "a rich tapestry"

Review by Schmopera