My Wounded Head 3

From the liner notes:

What it is: My Wounded Head 3 has been heard before. It repeats. It appropriates and rewrites the Passion Chorales from Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion—a sequence of five chorales often collected under the title “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden” (“O Sacred Head Now Wounded”). Every measure in My Wounded Head 3 is also repeated and the number of repetitions is left up to the performer. Repetition is also what all musicians do in private: we exalt in a moment that we wish to make perfect. But repetition is also a gesture of kindness, an allowance the composer gives to the performer. It says that mistakes are unavoidable (as life is unavoidable), but one can always begin again.

What it isn’t: My Wounded Head 3 is not a Bach chorale (although it does have four voices). It is how I listen to a Bach chorale: with its intentional mishearings, its prolonged duration, and the patterns that shift in and out of focus. If a work is finite—a fixed point in history—then re-hearings are infinite. And if one begins to imagine—and why not?—an infinite number of possible re-hearings of a Bach chorale, then one begins to lose the thread of repetition’s point of origin: in a book with infinite pages, no page can be the first, and no page the last. Similarly, no hearing can take priority (if we truly listen). Not even the composer’s herself. Only yours.


“… Chan’s piece [My Wounded Head 3] is among the most brilliant in recent memory.” American Record Guide

“Marc Chan’s entrancing piano opus My Wounded Head 3 … It’s never less than mesmerizing.” San Francisco Chronicle

“… [The set of five chorales from Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion] have become an obsession for Marc, and each station of his cycle forges a new ‘road trip’ through the notes, patiently spinning them out into strange and beautiful patterns. My Wounded Head 3, for solo piano, pushes this patience into sublime territory … the rhythms mesmerize, and you may even feel it not long enough.” Sequenza 21