Hundred Heads (2014)

About the Work

For: Orchestra
Duration: 16 minutes
First Performance: June 4, 2014 by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Ludovic Morlot

Commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and Ludovic Morlot as part of its Sonic Evolution project that celebrates the past and future of Seattle’s music scene.


Program Notes

The Hundred-Heads is a fish created out of a few words’ karma by posthumous repercussions down through time. One of the Chinese biographies of the Buddha says that one day the Buddha encountered some fisherman pulling in their nets. After endless effort, they dragged up on shore an enormous fish, with one head a monkey’s, another a dog’s, another a horse’s, another a fox’s, another a pig’s, another a tiger’s, and so on, to the number of one hundred.

“Are you not Kapila?” the Buddha asked the fish.
“I am Kapila,” the Hundred-Heads answered, and then died.

The Buddha explained to his disciples that in a previous incarnation, Kapila had been a Brahmin who had become a monk, and surpassed all men in his knowledge of the sacred texts. Sometimes his companions would make mistakes, at which Kapila would call them ‘monkey-head,’ ‘ dog-head,’ etc. When he died, the karma of that accumulated invective made him come back to life as a sea monster, floundering under the weight of all the heads he had wished upon his companions.

— Jorge Luis Borges “The Book of Imaginary Beings”

When I was asked by the Seattle Symphony to choose an artist who was a part of the local cultural map as my inspiration for a new piece, very quickly, I chose Ray Charles. I’m captivated by this creature. In a way, I think Ray Charles has its own incarnations, his breaks, his many before- life’s. He wouldn’t not take the enlightenment once the monster dies with him.

The Hundred-Heads is a fish created out of a few words’ karma by posthumous repercussions down through time. In a previous incarnation, Kapila had been a Brahmin who had become a monk, and surpassed all men in his knowledge of the sacred texts. Sometimes his companions would make mistakes, at which Kapila would call them ‘monkey-head,’ ‘ dog-head,’ etc. When he died, the karma of that accumulated invective made him come back to life as a sea monster, floundering under the weight of all the heads he had wished upon his companions.
To me, Ray Charles is the echo of that spirit.

In my piece, traces of Ray’s most known tune Georgia is faintly suggested, so was his “Hard Times, (no one knows better than I am). Traces of his trademark brass rhythm is only hinted, often in breaks.

I often wonder our own musical language. What constitutes others, when does such becomes our own. When an assimilation evolves to an assault. When the boundary of the divide stops.

To Ray’s spirit.

Angel’s Bone (2015)