A Bao A Qu (1987)

for flute/alto flute, violin, cello and piano

Commissioned by the New York Camerata

Recorded by the New York Camerata on Centaur Records (CRC 2152)


The first movement is a brooding fantasy for alto flute accompanied lightly by violin, cello and piano. The liveliness of the second movement provides a strong contrast to the static, dream-like world of the first. A brisk pulse — sometimes contained and mechanical, other times spinning out of control — imparts an urgent sense of motion to the musical flow. The pulse persists even as textures change color and subordinate ideas come to the fore. A series of duos and trios builds to a final grand passage in which all four instruments participate; this culminating texture suddenly dissolves into fragmented memories.

The musical action is inspired by a short narrative from The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges. The A Bao A Qu is a mythical creature that lies dormant at the bottom of the “Tower of Victory in Chitor.” Whenever a visitor approaches, some secret life stirs within the creature. Should the visitor start up the tower, the A Bao A Qu becomes fully conscious and closely follows the climber along the spiraling stair. Its shape changes and its inner glow becomes more brilliant as the visitor nears the final terrace. Yet, as no one is ever able to reach the top, the creature is doomed to fall back, shapeless and incomplete.


  • New Horizons Chamber Ensemble, Goucher College, Baltimore, 3/18/1997
  • New York Camerata, St. John's-in-the-Village, New York, 10/22/1995
  • Consortium, Miller Theater, New York, 2/8/1994
  • Consortium, Harvard University, 2/7/1994
  • EARPLAY, Cowell Theater, San Francisco, 3/13/1990
  • New York Camerata, New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, 2/26/1989
  • New York Camerata, Merkin Concert Hall, New York, 2/11/1988