What is life for? Wealth? Power? Happiness? Are you really feeling happy with your pursuits? Or would you just go on tirelessly? Do you really feel happy when chasing after those things?And what will you get by the end of your life? “I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
The piece is inspired by the book of Ecclesiastes from the Bible. Musically, it is inspired by a traditional Japanese theatrical performance “Kabuki”. It is purely musical “theatre”: the piece unfolds with the wheezing of hollowness of work and life, and it is followed by a wild dance of chase — a chase after fame and fortune in hopes of getting rid of the depression. Yet, the struggle only brings fleeting pleasure and pressing anxiety to chase after another goal. Feeling exhausted, one realizes that what one has done are all meaningless: the hollowness never goes away. Only after a hoarse cry does one start to realize the meaning of life, a meaning that transcends all materialistic goals; and only after understanding the reason to live can one take a breath of life.
There are references to traditional Japanese instrumental writings, including the sound of Shamisen imitated by pizzicato in strings, drum imitated by pizzicato chords and beating of strings on fingerboard, Japanese flute imitated by the high oboe. The shifting focus between different musical layers represents the movement of the imaginary dancer who moves forward and backward on the stage unceasingly.
“A Breath of Life” was commissioned by the Hong Kong Composers' Guild.