Peony Garden is a multichannel real-time interactive performance composition for four suspended Wiimote controllers, OSCulator, custom Max/MSP software, and Kyma. Peony Garden is inspired by the Chinese traditional Kun Opera, The Peony Pavilion, by Tang Xianzu. The Peony Pavilion features highly refined characters and subtle lyrics that are hailed as a high point in Chinese literature. My favorite act is “A Walk in the Garden”: It is the last days of the Southern Song Dynasty. On a fine spring day, a maid persuades Du Liniang, the sixteen-year-old daughter of an important official, Du Bao, to take a walk in the garden, where she falls asleep. In Du Liniang’s dream she encounters a young scholar, Liu Mengmei, with whom she rapidly falls in love and whom she wants to marry. In real life, however, she has never met him. Du Liniang’s dream is interrupted by a flower petal falling on her.
The highly refined lyrics, aided by the newly developed Kun Opera, weave a fabric of nuances and metaphors that elegantly pass between nature and the persona’s inner cosmos of emotions and desires. Through the performance of the opera, the story’s spirit shines through the lyrics with nuanced sensitivity and a persistent tone of youthful optimism.
In Peony Garden, the performer uses four suspended Wiimote controllers, which contain buttons and three-dimensional accelerometers, to shape a reimagined restructuring of the essential elements of the original Kun Opera. Two phrases used in this composition are “不到园林怎知春 色如许” (“You never know how spring looks like if you don’t come to the garden”); “踏草怕泥新绣袜，惜花疼煞小金玲” (“Miss Jinling attempts to walk in the grass, afraid of the wet mud and dirtying her new knitted socks”).