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Geen Cheen's Cassettes

for viola and piano

Year: 2022

Length: 6 minutes

Program Note:

Geen Cheen’s Cassettes is about what it might sound like if you lived in the moment of pressing rewind on a tape player. Geen Cheen refers to my maternal grandmother’s first name, in the way she spelled it while she was alive. The piece is inspired by the memory of falling in love with my grandmother’s old cassette tapes of Peking opera music. While composing this piece, I found the old tapes, and played them back, trying to find the ones I liked so much. I could not find the exact ones I remembered. Geen Cheen’s Cassettes does not capture the music of my grandmother’s cassettes, but rather, the joyful memory of them, and my more recent eager desire to find them again, while pressing rewind on her old cassette player.


Most of the musical material in this piece are imaginative transcriptions of my memory of the old tapes. With rapid meter changes throughout, I attempted to capture the imperfections of old cassette players, complete with skips, scratches, muffled microphones and pitch distortion. The pitch content derives primarily from a pentatonic scale. Overall, I attempted to create two contrasting effects: (1) an overall effect of  being frozen in time, and (2) a quickly moving backwards motion, so quick that it feels like it’s actually going forward. 


Shi-An Costello is a BMI composer. All rights reserved.

© 2022

Performance history:

Geen Cheen's Cassettes was premiered on January 23rd, 2022, at Constellation in Chicago, IL. Sixto Franco, viola ; Shi-An Costello, piano

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