Fire of Rebirth 火浴
for tenor solo and piano (2013)
While analysing Yu Kwang-chung’s Fire of Rebirth, the professor of Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature of National Chengchi University Chen Fang-ming wrote, “this is a paradigm contrapuntal reading and the breakthrough of Yu Kwang-chung’s art and openness of poetry… after several re-readings, I admit that Fire of Rebirth is his prime composition.” By contrapuntal reading, he explained that “is juxtaposition of contradictory values, with purposes of balancing each other and offering dialectic.” There are many dichotomies: upward, or downward; water, or fire; swan, or phoenix; the West, or the East; the Other, or the Self. At the surface the words are fighting for prominence, in the soul the self suffers from taking side among the contradictory values.
Setting music to this poem brings me also considerable sufferings as well. Curating this concert requires energy that draws my attention from creating music, and the depth of this poem, a manifesto of poet’s values and a song of eternal hope and victory over fiery baptism, is a bit piled with pressure too. My tiny hope is that the music may capture, albeit on a personal level, the tension within and the faith of transcendence after a journey from indetermination to a fiery baptism to song of bravura and of eternity. The music is also contrapuntal, with a lot of musical motifs fighting for being heard. The unambiguous yet constantly changing tonality can be seen as my musical obsession of writing music in the contemporary world.
臺灣政治大學臺灣文學研究所所長陳芳明在剖析《火浴》一詩時，說這詩「是對位式閱讀的典範，也是余光中詩藝上的開放與突破。…… 經過再閱讀之後，仍然還是承認《火浴》是他的顛峰之作。」他說的對位式閱讀，是「兩種相悖的價值並置，既可權衡，又可辯證。」詩中不單充滿著矛盾： 上昇、下降；水、火；天鵝、鳯凰；西方、東方；他者，自我。不單是表面上的你一言我一語，而是在靈魂上也在為選擇而爭扎。
Sample pages of scores
Date: March 2, 2013, Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware
Performers: David Quah, tenor; Julie Kuok, piano