Performed with: ENSEMBLE ÉCHAPPÉ at the Academy of Arts and Letters
200 Dreams From Captivity: Book 1
by Scott Wheeler
Five Poems by Wang Dan, Translated from the Chinese by Shalin Liu and Scott Wheeler
In 1989, the Chinese government cracked down on unarmed pro-democracy student protesters with
assault rifles and tanks in what is now known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Hundreds were killed,
thousands injured, and key student leaders were imprisoned for treason, among them Wang Dan, who
spent the next seven years as a political prisoner. While in captivity, Wang Dan wrote numerous
breathtaking poems, exploring love, yearning and hope. 200 Dreams From Captivity: Book 1 is a
dramatic cycle of five of these poems, translated into English by Shalin Liu and Scott Wheeler. The
poems are not depictions of life in prison, nor do they explicitly discuss the political issues that brought
the poet to this captivity. Rather, this is a series of meditations on memory and friendship, building to a
statement of hope in the future.
The Chinese melody “Piao ling de luo hua” (the faded flowers blowing in the wind) underlies the opening
cello solo. Other Chinese references in the music are incidental results of my interest in Chinese music
and culture, and have no specific relationship to the text.
200 Dreams From Captivity was commissioned through the kind generosity of Shalin Liu. It is dedicated
to human dignity and the beauty of spiritual freedom.