A veil barely seen


Program Note

for viola and electronics

Chapter 6 of the Tao Te Ching is about the Valley Spirit, an eternal female element associated with water. In a poetic translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, she is compared to “a veil barely seen”:

The valley spirit never dies;
It is the woman, primal mother.
Her gateway is the root of heaven and earth.
It is like a veil barely seen.
Use it; it will never fail.

I recorded the sound of water for this piece in the winter and early spring of 2000. Listening to the different streams, I felt myself pulled in by the sound. The water flows between, around, and through the rocks, and as it does, it produces different pitches and rhythms. They change in subtle ways, depending on where you stand. The longer I listened, the more I began to hear. But sometimes I could not tell whether the pitches that I heard were really there or were only sounding in my imagination. Finally, I felt myself disappearing into the water.

A Veil Barely Seen was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, Liuh-Wen Ting.

About Frances White

Frances White composes instrumental and electronic music. She is particularly known for her works combining live instruments and computer-generated electronic sound spaces. She studied composition at the University of Maryland,…