top of page
Silent Crackdown Program Notes

Date: 2016

Duration: 10 minutes

Instrumentation: for alto saxophone and piano

Premiere: March 13, 2016 at Choir Hall, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

Silent Crackdown was commissioned by Pin-Hua Chen and I-An Chen and is a collection of musical ideas commemorating the “228 Incident” and the subsequent 38 years of martial law in Taiwan from 1949 to 1987.  On February 27, 1947, the arrest of a cigarette vendor in Taipei led to large-scale protests by the native Taiwanese against corruption and repression on the next day February 28. Following the protests, troops rounded up and executed an entire generation of leading figures, including students, lawyers, and doctors. Scholars estimate that up to 28,000 people lost their lives in the turmoil. The “228 Incident” remains a defining event in the political divide that exists in Taiwan today and February 28 is now a recognized holiday in Taiwan called “Peace Memorial Day”.


Silent Crackdown consists of three large sections. The first part is inspired by the music played at Taiwanese funerals to awaken the dead and then lead the dead from the underworld to rebirth.  Part two juxtaposes seven themes related to 228 following a structure derived by applying feng shui to the date of February 28, 1947. The seven themes are Martial Law (a precarious march with multiphonics in the saxophone); Rebirth (radiant harmonies); Underworld (a musical pattern based on a series from 228); Journey of the Soul (fung shui applied to 228 which creates the pitches and rhythms in a gesture of unison power); Buddhist “Doing the Sevens” chant with the song of the “Green Tara Mantra” which is used to help the transition from the underworld to rebirth (repeating patterns based on sevens); and music inspired by a jazz tune by Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane called “Evidence” which represents the continuous revelation and admission of the crimes of 228 (dissonant counterpoint with jazz inflections). Part three provides variations on the “Green Tara Mantra” theme going through “march mantra”, “groove mantra”, and “climax mantra” before ending with music called “the blessing and departure of the soul”.


Zack Browning    

March 3, 2016


bottom of page