“Night-Shining White” was inspired by a Chinese legend about a horse of the same name, explained Zhou, assistant professor of music. It was said to be a loyal companion to Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty, and supposedly had a luminous moon-white coat.
The emperor commissioned renowned Tang painter Han Gan to create a portrait of the horse, which now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is considered one of the greatest works of the dynasty.
Zhou was drawn to the expressiveness of the painting. “As a piece of music,” he noted, “I thought that the dark color of the brass quintet would be a fitting instrumentation to express muscularity as well as lyricism.”
Coincidentally, the professor was lecturing about the Tang Dynasty in his Core China course as he was composing the recently finished piece.
Empire Brass will be the second ensemble coming to campus this semester to perform a composition by Zhou. On March 2, Eroica Trio performed Zhou’s “Trio,” a piece he completed in 2002 while studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
“‘Trio’ consists of the three most capable and soloistic instruments in Western classical music [piano, violin, cello], and yet it can work harmoniously as one musical force,” he said. “I wanted to showcase the ensemble as a whole, as well as highlight the individuality and virtuosity of each player.” The piano intro is particularly virtuosic, with rapid ascending octaves, he added.
The Colgate Arts Council has long been bringing talented and interdisciplinary outside programming, such as the Eroica Trio and Empire Brass, to campus to celebrate the arts at Colgate.
“It’s like having the Carnegie Hall concerts at our doorstep!” remarked Zhou, who is appreciative of the relationships he has been able to form with these groups.
“It is music that connected us,” he reflected, “and it is music that will keep our friendship flourishing.”