A Composer's Mourning for the Sichuan Earthquake

(A Introduction of Philia Yuen's piano work "The Unshakable" )


written by Reggie Liu on May 12th, 2017, the 9th anniversary of the catastrophic SIchuan Earthquake which happened on May 12th, 2008)


The same date as today but nine years ago, HongKong composer Phlia Yuen was "shocked" by the catastrophic earthquake happened in Sichuan, China. She was mourning by seeing people die and injured, and then composed the contemporary piano work "The Unshakable".

The piece cis structured as section A to Section B, then goes back to section A. In the section A, the melody was smooth and flowing, just like the common everyday life —— children were playing, old people were exercising, young people were making money ... each pursues what he/she believes as important, day after day. In section B, harsh sounds abruptly come, just like the catastrophe.


Nine years have passed and the land is somewhat healed, people once again lives in a peaceful and harmony time. To the majorities and authority in this country, it does not matter anymore whether or why this catastrophe happened, although everyone knows that it was not the only disaster happened in past few years and probably will not be the last one for the future years.

What's surprising is that the composer Philia "foresaw" what would be happening today when she was composing the work many years ago —— after the section B, section A comes back very quickly with "children were playing, old people were exercising, young people were making money ..."; everything went back to normal like nothing happened or remembered, while time endlessly flowing to the future.

The round score is like a never-stopping clock which runs cycle after cycle and never escape from such a pattern. By the end of the work, a running metronome clicks as time ever continuing, leaves the question to people: what is shakable and what is unshakable?


'The Unshakable' Full Performance, 2010 at Orleans, France

The section A is composed as a round score which can be performed repeatedly. The score defines that the performer can play this section for any times as she/he desires, and can determine whenever when section B intervenes. The score also defines the performer to scrape the strings with a steel ruler, a rememberance to the school children who lost their lives in the earthquake. Performer shouts at the end of the section B, ‘Eli,Eli, lema sabachthani?' is taken from the New Testament in Hebrew "My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?”

"The Unshakable" was incorporated by performance "From 2116: The New World" which performed on September 4th, 2016 at opening ceremony of the Shanghai Project