China Gates

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China Gates is a short piano piece composed by the minimalist American composer John Adams in 1977. Adams wrote this work as a companion piece to his Phrygian Gates, dating from the same period. Phrygian Gates is the longer of the two pieces and uses many of the same techniques as China Gates, but in terms of structure the two pieces have little in common.

The piece is one of Adams' first mature works, which he wrote for the then 17-year-old pianist Sarah Cahill during a rainy season in northern California. Adams himself has suggested that the constant eighth notes of the piece reflect the steady rainfall of the time. The bass notes of the piece form the root of the mode, while the upper voices oscillate between different modes. K. Robert Schwarz has noted how the style of China Gates is in keeping with the ideas of "process music" of Steve Reich.

The piece is written in three parts. In the first part, the modes alternate between A-flat mixolydian and G-sharp aeolian, which sounds almost like the major and minor versions of the same key. The third part alternates between F lydian and F locrian. The second part alternates more rapidly between all four modes. Adams has described the structure of the work as an "almost perfect palindrome".


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