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Shen Yun composition Review

“The Steadfast Lotus” and its Journey Through the Snowstorm, Blooming into the Finest Flower

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Written by Cheetahara
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The Steadfast Lotus
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In many cultures, especially in Eastern traditions, the lotus stands as a beacon of purity and spiritual elevation, rising above the muddy waters to bloom with grace and beauty. This powerful metaphor sets the stage for “The Steadfast Lotus” – a profound narrative set to music composed by Gao Yuan and exquisitely orchestrated by Milen Nachev. Rooted in the trials and tribulations faced by practitioners of Falun Dafa in contemporary China, the piece intertwines personal saga with universal themes of faith and redemption.

The Beginning: Nostalgic Memories Through Melodies That Echo the Essence of Family

The composition begins with erhus, transporting listeners to a serene musical space where it harmonizes exquisitely with the violin and cello. The erhu’s melody, simple and touching, is akin to the warmth of home, evoking memories of a place where parents await, their love ever-present.

As the composition reaches ((0:53)), the oboe seamlessly picks up the erhu’s melody, further deepening the portrayal of this familiar, intimate setting. This segment is a poignant reflection of the joys and simplicities shared between a mother and her child. In these moments, the mother imparts life’s most crucial teachings – Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. Conversely, the child, with her innate innocence and unblemished outlook, promises a future journey filled with goodness and virtue, aligning with these teachings as her guiding principles.

At ((1:10)), merging the erhus and flutes is a harmonious interaction between the mother and child.

Instruments Reflect Generations

Here, we can see the character’s aspect symbolized by the instrument’s tone color. The erhu, with its gentle and simplistic tone, resonates with the warmth and familiarity of the homeland, much like the mother’s embracing presence. Its sound is rich in nuances, mirroring a mature woman seasoned by life’s experiences, imparting wisdom through melodies akin to sacred lullabies. These tunes are not just musical notes but are laden with life lessons, nurturing the child’s growth.

In contrast, the flutes bring an element of agility and innocence, echoing the child’s youthful exuberance and untainted soul.

Let’s reflect a bit on how the woodwinds continue and develop the previous melody of erhus, like the cyclical nature of learning and growth within the family dynamic. It makes me think about the saying: “Children are mirrors that reflect the image of their parents.” This musical segment highlights parents’ critical role in shaping their children’s lives and the inherent responsibility to lead by example. Again, a child’s soul is like a blank canvas, and the initial strokes, the foundational values and lessons are etched by the parents.

And here, at ((1:10)), the melding of the erhu and flute melodies beautifully describes the mother’s influence on the child. The development of the flute’s melody in response to the erhu illustrates the child’s learning process – absorbing and evolving under her mother’s tutelage.

As the composition progresses to ((1:25)), there is a subtle yet noticeable quickening of tempo, with highlights at each pipas’ arpeggios. This infusion adds a sense of joy and vibrancy, symbolizing the shared happiness between the mother and daughter. The oboe, catching up and accompanying the pipas’ main melody, recreates an atmosphere of contentment, where both characters engage in the practice of Falun Dafa. This segment of the music not only captures their shared spiritual journey but also reflects the profound impact of this practice on their bond and individual lives.

The Music’s Dramatic Turn: Signaling the Onset of Storm

Those happy times seemed to last forever, with the mother and daughter finding joy in each other’s company. Gao Yuan’s composition, up until ((1:43)), paints this idyllic picture—a world where simple, day-to-day happiness and a bright future awaited them, a future perfectly suited to their gentle and kind natures. The orchestra performs in unison, channeling energy into every stratum of sound with an uplifting tempo, thereby elevating the listeners’ spirits. The drums, resonating like a call to home, complemented the glorious brass, leading one to believe that the orchestra would guide us to a climactic high, smoothly transitioning to a beautiful ending.

However, the blissful narrative is abruptly shattered in a stark and jarring shift at ((1:43)). The forceful downbeat of the brass introduces a dissonant sound akin to a wall suddenly erected in their path. The cymbal’s crash serves as a warning alarm, tearing apart the serene picture and sowing unease before the impending storm.

As the cellos then take over, their rapid play and the emphatic cadence are supported by violins and brass. The way the orchestra plays below the octave deeply depicts the heart-wrenching scene of the Chinese Communist Party police brutally separating mother and child. During the cellos’ third aggressive surge at ((1:52)), the violins poignantly express both the physical and emotional torment of enduring persecution for one’s beliefs. They evoke the anguish experienced by those forced to witness the suffering of their loved ones. Meanwhile, the oboes add an additional layer of depth to this tragedy, further intensifying the emotional impact on the listener.

Even without directly witnessing the harrowing scene, one can partially imagine and question the nature of such brutality: how people can inflict such treatment upon each other and how a person could possibly endure such immense pain. It prompts us to reflect on the plight of victims of persecution and how they have overcome it.

The Agony of Separation

((2:22)) The strings gradually recede, leaving the oboe to stand alone. If this instrument once a symbol of the daughter’s innocent laughter in the beginning, now, after enduring life’s significant turmoil, it has become a sob of loneliness and sorrow. The instrument’s restrained, mournful melody poignantly captures her deep sense of loss and despair. This brutal persecution took away her venerable mother, thrusting her, once cocooned in love and care, into confronting the expansive world solo, much like a lone oboe playing a solitary melody amidst the silence that shrouds the rest of the orchestra.

By ((2:41)), the haunting melody of the strings makes a return, and as they eventually fade, they give way to a winter motif at ((2:53)). The interplay between the violins and woodwinds evokes the chilling winds, resonating with the deep tones of the cello, like melancholy shivers.

As we progress to ((3:22)), the cellos persist with this frigid melody, and the amplitude grows. This build-up leads the orchestra to a climactic point, representing the peak of the daughter’s emotional winter. This peak, marked by ((3:33)), is punctuated by the resounding beats of the timpani, each strike denoting a crucial, defining moment in her journey of resilience.

Invigorating Melody: The Lotus Emerges, Unyielding Against the Frost

A pivotal moment occurs at ((3:36)), where the cymbal crash signifies a profound shift in the narrative. This sound is akin to a forceful breakthrough of a thick layer of ice, symbolizing the end of a harsh snowstorm.

Then, at ((3:37)), we are greeted with the melody of revival. This segment beautifully encapsulates the essence of the lotus flower, the central symbol of this piece. In nature, the lotus endures the harshest weather conditions – snowstorms, rain, and wind – only to emerge more pristine and purer than before, washing away all traces of dirt. Just as the lotus retains its beauty and purity through adversity, so too does the young girl in our story maintain her faith and integrity.

The music at this juncture communicates a powerful sense of revival and resilience. It tells us that amidst trials, the girl has not only held onto her beliefs in Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance but has also emerged stronger for it.

Divine Intervention and Heartfelt Reunion

At ((3:55)), the music blossoms into a healing and bright melody. This transition is quintessential to Shen Yun’s musical ethos, where even in the depths of sorrow, there is a glimmer of hope, and ultimately, the music aspires to convey beauty and restoration.

Returning to the story within the music, as the girl shows her steadfastness, the compassionate Buddhas appear in a divine, glorious melody at ((4:02)). In this profoundly moving moment, the girl is shown a transcendent vision: her mother arrives in a realm of peace and beauty, a place where she truly belongs.

The opening melody returns at ((4:22)), with the erhu and pipa symbolizing the mother’s presence. The pipa’s strumming and the melodious erhu create an auditory illusion of a heartfelt conversation between mother and daughter. This musical reconnection allows the girl, and by extension, the listener, to revisit the happier times shared with mother.

Following that heartfelt moment, the daughter found solace and a sense of lightness, as if the scars on her heart were mending, reflected by the soothing music at ((4:47)).

Toward the Climax: A Unified Orchestral Push

As we approach ((5:02)), the composition marks a crescendo both musically and narratively. At this juncture, the melody undergoes robust development, spearheaded by the resounding brass and woodwinds.

The orchestral texture is enriched by the ostinato bass harmony provided by the strings, which lays a solid foundation for going to the climax. This persistent rhythmic pattern serves as an anchor, symbolizing the girl’s steadfastness amidst life’s turbulent waves. The cymbals crash in succession, emphasizing the significance of each moment. Beneath this, the bass drum resonates with a motivating force, propelling the narrative forward and underscoring the gravity of the girl’s journey.

Together, these elements create a whole that continuously pushes toward the climax, akin to the glorious return of the mother and the girl continuing her journey forward with stronger faith and determination than ever. Now, she is not only the most beautiful lotus but also a testament to resilience, having weathered storms and braved adversities to emerge more accomplished, shining brilliantly.

As the symphony draws to a close, it leaves an indelible impression of beauty born from suffering, of light discovered in the depths of darkness. As a listener, I am left with a profound admiration and inspiration about the lotus within each of us, urging us to remain pure and resilient, much like the steadfast lotus blooming with grace and beauty amidst murky waters.

For those who seek to delve into the emotional depths and profound narratives that Shen Yun’s music offers, this masterpiece is an essential experience. You can now stream it, along with their other compositions, online via Shen Yun Creations (Shen Yun Zuo Pin).

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Visiting the Shen Yun showroom profoundly changed my perception of traditional art's deep value, distinctly different from familiar modern pieces. This inspired me to integrate this elegant, classical style into my life, observing positive shifts in myself and my loved ones. Professionally, I value the creative process, learning from ancient artisans' patience and precision to create meaningful, quality results. Aspiring to share these traditional values, I hope we can find balance and virtue in modern chaos through the precious spiritual teachings of traditional culture and art.