Dennis Russell Davies, conductor — he was American conductor for American Composers Symphony, and also German Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra as well. And he is Lou’s very close friend, and during that time we just worked on some other project with the symphony.1 And Dennis suggested to me, he said “Well, maybe we can ask Lou to write a piece for pipa and a string orchestra.”2 The reason because Lou is familiar with Asian music and Lou spent time — early years, he spent time to study gamelan and he also traveled between Taiwan, so he has this sort of Eastern music influence in his music language. So, Dennis thinks that makes sense to ask him to write a pipa concerto. So, when he called him, the answer of course was yes. I was shocked, because at such age, at Lou’s age already, certain age, some people maybe don’t want to touch something unfamiliar, but Lou just go for it. And then he told me — he said, “Well, yeah, I’ve been learning Japanese shamisen.” And I said, “Wow, this is exactly the same kind of type of instrument” and he had a pipa at home. Yeah, he was collecting some Chinese instrument.3
So, I remember doing that, the whole process was — that time, early 90s — the piece was premiered in ’97, so before that I don’t think we have cell phone. Even email kind of barely started, ’94, ’95, and all communication was through the phone conversation or fax.4 And he wrote a scale and he faxed me, and he said, “Try it, if this scale is working on the instrument.” And his own scale, it’s not major, it’s not minor. It’s just a B, I mean D sharp, E sharp. I believe that that’s it. So the da-da-da, yeah, that’s his scale. And then he said to me. He said, “Well, I’m not going to write anything like pipa traditional repertoire, a lot of virtuoso kind of a style, but I’m going to write my own understanding about this instrument, I want my own language.” I said I totally agree with him. I said, this is exactly supposed to be your music, your language, your understanding of this instrument, so I really expected that we’ll bring something different from this instrument, see the angle is different — view the instrument differently than Chinese.5 So, that’s how the piece came.