On WHISPERING FRAGRANCE, his first solo album, composer Stephen Yip merges serenity with agitation, earthiness with sophistication, and the mundane with the sublime. The result is an original creation that is unapologetically post-modern, yet deeply rooted in Chinese traditionalism.
The instrumentation itself already offers ample proof for this unique blend. "Ding", scored for double bass and the Chinese zither guzheng (an instrument with a 2,500-year history), reflects the nine ancient rulers of the Zhou kingdom in just as many short musical sections.
"Whispering Fragrance," an intuitive, ethereal composition for solo violin, aims to capture the transcendent sensual experiences of interacting with nature – sight, smell, hearing – with the instrument's natural harmonics.
Stephen Yip, who nowadays lives in the United States, does not shy away from jazz instrumentation, either. "In 7th Heaven," a saxophone, double bass, and piano seek to create a state of debonair tranquility.
Nevertheless, the influence of Yip's Chinese heritage remains profoundly interwoven with his musical creations. Some of the different meanings of the Chinese word "Ran" are set to sound in the eponymous piece written for solo guzheng, running the gamut from collected composure to fiery agitation. "Tranquility in Consonance", set for flute, saxophone, bassoon, and piano, never loses its distinctly Eastern feel, which is partially due to applying playing techniques of Chinese instruments to the Western set-up, partially due to its uninhibited celebration of environmental and natural sounds.
Finally, "Peace of Mind" is an atmospheric development of heterogeneous textures, the conclusion of which mirrors the title.
WHISPERING FRAGRANCE is an exceptional solo debut, bridging the chasm between two vastly different cultures with a musical language that is quite unique.