Date of Graduation

Summer 2009


Master of Music



Committee Chair

John Prescott


Journey to the West is a five-movement composition based on a Chinese epic of Xuanzang (Chinese唐僧; pinyin Xuan Zang) a Buddhist monk and four traveling companions who receive instructions to journey to India and retrieve the sacred scrolls of Buddha and bring them to China. Journey to the West is well known among the Chinese and has been passed down from generation to generation because of its moral and religious teachings. It is considered to be one of the four best known epic stories in China. To portray authentically as much as possible the Chinese culture, the composition is written strictly for traditional Chinese instruments except for the use of the double bass. It is structured in such a way as to use each of the movements to depict, musically, the story and the main aspects that pertain to the story. In order to achieve this, much time has been dedicated to the research of traditional Chinese musical instruments, their strengths and limitations, special notations in playing techniques and overall compositional structure. In addition to reading the epic story, private interviews with Chinese students and professors contributed to gaining a better understanding. Throughout the composition, however, there are certain portions that deviate from traditional Chinese musical structure (i.e. harmonies and counterpoint) and reflect more of a Western musical influence.


chinese music, chinese traditional instruments, composition, epic, journey to the west

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© Bryan Leland Wise

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