Seagulls

This piece is titled Seagulls and Forgetting Schemes 鷗鷺忘機. The story originates from a passage in the Han dynasty text Liezi 列子. Therein, a seafarer finds that that seagulls have no fear until he intends to catch them to bring home.

Like rolling waves, initial series of harmonic glissandi invite the listener to the serene seaside. The first section, with deep stopped tones modulated by bending notes, depict the seagulls as they congregate, seemingly carefree. A more frantic mood is felt in the second section. The birds, having sensed ulterior motives and schemes, now show fear and refuse to fly near. At the end, the coda returns the ocean’s calm.

From the Yellow Emperor 黃帝 chapter, with my translation:

海上之人有好漚鳥者,每旦之海上,從漚鳥游,漚鳥之至者百住而不止。 On the ocean, there was one who loved seagulls, and each morning out on the ocean, he would play with them. The gulls flocked to him, numbering more than hundreds.
其父曰:「吾聞漚鳥皆從汝游,汝取來,吾玩之。」 His father said, “I hear that the seagulls come to you to play. You bring them back, so I can play with them.”
明日之海上,漚鳥舞而不下也。 The next day on the ocean, the gulls dance about without coming down to land.
故曰:至言去言,至為無為;齊智之所知,則淺矣。 Therefore, it is said, “The utmost speech is the removal of speech; the utmost action is non-action. Wisdom that the masses know, that is shallow indeed.”

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