Composition Department

Yihan Chen, Current BM Student

Vanished Through Time (2015)
for soprano and piano


Full Score

Program Notes

The text of this song cycle is taken from “Shijing” (Classic of Poetry), the oldest collection of Chinese poetry, comprising 305 works of various origins dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BCE. Even though many of the poems may have originally been folk songs, they seem to have been edited by the learned, for they are highly polished and are rather consistent stylistically and metrically throughout the collection.

Written in the language of what we now consider to be Old Chinese (the classic language spoken roughly during the 13th – 3rd century BCE), almost all of the poems rhymed at the time, consisting of end rhymes as well as internal rhymes. While some the rhymes still rhyme in the modern varieties of Chinese, many of them have ceased to rhyme in Middle Chinese (the medieval language whose phonology was first documented in 601 CE). Thus the collection has become an important work for providing linguistic evidence for reconstructing Old Chinese.

In this song cycle, I have used, with permission, the most recent and perhaps the most accurate reconstruction of Old Chinese to date by Sinologists William H. Baxter and Laurent Sagart in their most recent book “Old Chinese – A New Reconstruction”, which was published by Oxford University Press in 2014.

The title Vanished Through Time reflects on the gradual extinction of this ancient language, the inevitable disappearance of the ways of life and thinking suggested in these poems, and with the common theme of love present in the three poems selected for this song cycle, the ever changing state of both the material and the spiritual.


Chen Yihan was born in Changzhou, China. He is a recipient of the ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award as well as the IU Jacobs School of Music Dean’s Prize. He was also the winner of the IMTA Composition Competition, the Chamber Instrumental Winner of the IMEA Composition Competition, and the First Prize Winner of the University of Indianapolis Young Composer’s Contest. His work for SATB choir Shui Guang Lian Yan (Ripples Glisten Away...) was included in “Half Moon Rising”, an anthology of Chinese choral music published by Edition Peters, and was premiered by Cantoría Hong Kong in the Hong Kong City Hall in 2015. His music has been performed in venues such as the Neunen Synagoge in Berlin, Germany, the 2014 Midwest Composers Symposium in College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington, Indiana, etc. He was also the featured composer and pianist with Colorado State University Chamber Orchestra at the Griffin Concert Hall, where many of his compositions were premiered.

As a pianist, Chen Yihan was the Grand Prize winner of the Cincinnati World Piano Competition Concerto Division, the winner of the New World Youth Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition, the winner of the Young Artist Concerto Competition by Murray State University, and the winner of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Competition, etc. He made his debut as an orchestra soloist at age 11 at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis, performing with the New World Youth Symphony Orchestra. Since then, he has performed with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, the World Symphony Orchestra, the Paducah Symphony Orchestra, the Colorado State University Chamber Orchestra, and the Honors Orchestra of America. He made his debut at Carnegie Hall at the age of 16.

He is currently pursuing bachelor’s degrees in music composition and piano performance at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, studying composition with Sven-David Sandström and piano with Arnaldo Cohen. His principle composition teachers also include Claude Baker, Don Freund, P.Q. Phan, and Aaron Travers. Additional studies include studying with Samuel Adler at FUBiS 2014 and 2015 in Berlin.