The River Runs Silver
Winner of the 2016 Atlantic Coast Confrence Band Directors Association, Jame E. Croft Grant for Young and Emerging Wind Band Composers
Duration ca. 18 minutes
Emperor Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of China. He gained the throne at the age of thirteen, serving until his death at the age of fifty. Within the time he served as ruler, Qin Shi Huang performed some of the most extraordinary tasks ever seen on this planet. He commanded his people and fought beside them as a great warrior during the Warring States Period. He led his men into battle time and time again until he brought together the seven states as one unified China. The emperor was a vicious leader blinded by his one true ambition, to create the greatest nation the world had ever seen. Unfortunately, with every action he took towards unifying his great nation, increasing paranoia of betrayal by his people and his court members followed. Through his reign, Emperor Qin Shi Huang created many enemies. These enemies (usually the rulers of one of the seven states) would send assassins to attempt murder of the emperor. Qin Shi Huang escaped death by assassination three times. He began having visions and night terrors of the enemies he had slain coming to haunt him in the afterlife. His paranoia of betrayal led him to create an army so grand that no person or creation could haunt him in the afterlife. He commanded pottery craftsmen around the nation to start working on the Terracotta Army, which was made up of thousands of life-size solders, horses, weapons, and caravans to help protect him after his death. Once China was unified as a nation, the emperor’s worries did not halt. He embarked on a project which would span the entire empire. The Great Wall of China’s construction required hundreds of thousands of citizens to slave over the massive feat. Regardless, the emperor thought the wall would keep China a unified nation, protecting it from any threatening forces and putting his nightmares to rest.
As Qin Shi Huang grew older he began thinking of who would take care of his strong nation once he was gone. The answer laid within him the entire time. The emperor began on a journey for eternal life. With a growing desire to live and rule for eternity, the emperor unknowingly drove himself to insanity. He tried various elixirs, including mercury. Doctors and alchemists thought that this mystical substance was highly indicative of increased longevity. Little did they know that by prescribing the elixirs they were actually destroying the emperor’s body, and more importantly, his brain. Eventually, the mercury elixirs and his restless thoughts pushed him over the edge. The Great Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, died and the search for immortality ended. China lost its maker.
It is said that Qin Shi Huang is buried in the largest underground mausoleum, about a football field in size. The tomb is surrounded by 180 separate pits of pottery figures depicting dancers, musicians, and artists, along with the Terracotta soldiers. On the ceiling of the tomb, thousands of gems made to look as if the cosmos of the night danced above him. On the expansive floor, his nation is recreated. The floor is a map of all he unified including the peaks and valleys of the land, as well as all the rivers and oceans. These valleys are said to be filled with liquid mercury which is circulated by a machine to recreate the actual flowing of water and as long as that water was flowing, the emperor would continue to exist in his underground tomb.
The River Runs Silver is a piece written about Emperor Qin Shi Huang. I wanted to depict not just the emperor himself but also the structures he built, the people he led, the armies he forged, the enemies he made, the paranoia he had, and the nation he unified. Although the emperor was a ruthless and vicious man, I believe that everything he did had one purpose: to create one nation with a unified people. He loved his country and people so much that nothing would stop him in securing that passion he held.
The strength of love he had for China is what keeps him alive today. And so, The River Runs Silver.
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