Mother's lullaby (2018)

“Wiegenlied der Mutter” / “母亲的摇篮曲”

dedicated to my mother

Mother's lullaby 2018.mp3

MIDI demo


A cappella SATB




Score available upon request; preview score here

Programme note

In this piece, I explore the theme of ‘folksong’ by juxtaposing Swiss-German text from a Swiss lullaby (Chindli mi, schlaf nur i / ‘Sleep now, my child’) against the tune and Chinese text from a Korean/Mandarin lullaby (小白船 / ‘Little white boat’). Both lullabies contain parallel imageries of a rocking cradle (‘Wiegeli’) / floating boat (‘船’), as well as shining stars in the night sky. Weaving the two lullabies, I imagine a mother singing gently as she rocks her child’s cradle. Gradually, her child floats into slumber, and towards a ‘strange land’ described by words adapted from Albin Zollinger’s Fremdes Land (‘Strange Land’) — where ‘thousand lights are blossoming like peaceful dandelions’.

The way in which the child floats (over regional borders) above the ‘strange land’ may be thought of as a figurative comment on the process by which folksongs are transmitted, varied, and subsequently appropriated. I learnt that ‘小白船’ (‘Little white boat’) was written by Korean songwriter Yoon Geuk Young in 1924 (during the Japanese occupation of Korea). The song became popular amongst Korean children and eventually spread to neighbouring China and Japan, where its lyrics were adapted and translated. Evolution as such suggests an inevitable ambiguity which questions the assumption of a ‘folk’ locality presumably associated with a folksong. My piece, through the juxtaposition of texts in disparate languages, seeks to espouse and embody this ambiguity.