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The premise underlyingThe Clash of Icicles against the Stars is the Chinese concept of qi. Qi means ‘breath’, ‘air’ or ‘gas’ and signifies the energy flow or life force that is the fundamental sustaining element of existence. The piece explores the various air chambers of the three instruments for which it is written, with the accordion compressing and expanding its chamber to manufacture sound, while the sheng, China’s oldest wind instrument and the ancestor of the accordion, uses reed vibration in contrast to the reedless flute, whose embouchure hole provides the basis for timbral experimentation. The I Ching provides a symmetrical structural base, while Rimbaud’s poem ‘Barbarian’, with its highly emotional imagery, evokes the spatial range and temporal pace of The Clash of Icicles against the Stars.