Monkey King Battles the Generals


for clarinet & fixed media (2016)




3 min.


for clarinet & fixed media

Program Notes

The Monkey King (Sun Wukong) is one of the the most beloved characters from Chinese legend. In the most famous telling, he accompanies the monk Xuanzang as he travels the famous Journey to the West to bring the Buddhist scriptures from India to China.

Monkey King Battles the Generals tells an earlier tale from the Sun Wukong’s life. In this episode, the Monkey King had used his powers to visit Heaven. While there, he stumbled onto a heavenly banquet where he downed a whole plate of peaches. These peaches turned out to be the Peaches of Immortality meant for all the luminaries of heaven such as the Jade Emperor, Kwan Yin, and Lao Tzu. At just that moment he was caught by the Heavenly General of Might Miracle and the twelve Thunder Generals. They fight a tremendous and very noisy battle full of magic and daring do. Monkey easily fought off the generals, first with his martial skills, then by making himself very small, and finally by plucking twelve hairs from his body and turning each into a monkey to fight off the generals. In in the end it took the magic of the Bodhisattva Kwan Yin to magically zap the Monkey King into obedience.

Both Monkey King Battles the Generals and Monkey King Versus the Spider Wizard were written for Jun Qian’s West Meets East recording project.

Justin Merritt Music

Composer Justin Merritt was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolph Nissim Award. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the McKnight Fellowship, the Copland Award, and the Polyphonos Prize. His music has been played by the Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and on A Prairie Home Companion.

His evening length cantata, The Path, was premiered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in April 2018. The work is a setting of a collection of Buddhist Pali scriptures translated by the composer and set for multiple choirs, soloists, and large orchestra.

He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandstrom, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Professor and Chair of Music at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Faye and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe.

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