Selected Works
Orchestra & Large Ensemble
Solo & Duet
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Musical Theatre
When You Contemplate the Waters

A wider palette of colours was exploited by [Joshua Cerdenia] in When You Contemplate The Waters (2013). Piano, [vibraphone] and more brass joined the ensemble in the metamorphosis of a rising three note motif, evoking a lotus blooming. Stillness with Rit Xu’s alto flute accompanied by Chen Yang’s [vibraphone], and the climactic orchestral roar near the end were some memorable moments.
–Chang Tou Liang, The Straits Times

Composer's Note

An old haiku by Kyokusai (1816-1874) goes: "When you contemplate the waters at day break, you can hear the lotus blossom" (English translation from Japanese Death Poems, ed. Yoel Hoffman, 1986), alluding to a popular but unsubstantiated belief that the lotus flower makes a subtle noise when it opens. Instead of approximating that imagined noise, When You Contemplate the Waters affirms what the lotus traditionally symbolizes: purity, awakening, and life. The piece is built around two opposite forces: the water—fluid, unstable, and freely given to transformation; and the lotus—solid and assured in its purpose. Sometimes they are directly opposed; at other times it is more difficult to tell them apart. In the end the flower blossoms, emerging out of the murky waters.

When You Contemplate the Waters is the second in a cycle of loosely related pieces inspired by Japanese death haiku, preceded by On the Verge and followed by Heavenward. Furthermore, it is a kind of homage to Takemitsu, and is transparently inspired by Rain Coming, especially in its opening moments. Inevitably, it diverges in a completely different direction. It was written for the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory New Music Ensemble and completed in Baltimore in the spring of 2013.


Flute (doubling alto flute), oboe, clarinet in B flat, bassoon, horn, trumpet in B flat, trombone, percussion (1 player: vibraphone, bass drum, tam-tam, suspended cymbal), piano, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass

An alternate version (2015) also exists for chamber orchestra with a full string section.


9 minutes

First Performance

13 November 2013, Esplanade Recital Studio, Singapore
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory New Music Ensemble conducted by Chan Tze Law

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