Created with support from The Canada Council for the Arts, The Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and The Royal Conservatory of Music.


12 minutes


Solo piano (beginner to intermediate level)

The Twelve Chinese Zodiac Animals, Book 1:

As my daughter was learning piano, I found there were few Asian-themed pieces in the repertoire series she was learning from, and even fewer that reflected Chinese cultural themes. So I decided to compose a book of twelve short pieces for piano inspired by the Chinese Zodiac animals, all tailored to the educational needs of student pianists. To ensure that I created sincere musical portraits of each animal, I researched their legends, personality traits, and cultural significance (eg. Rabbit – gentle, compassionate, and lucky), as well as their distinguishing physical languages (eg. Rabbit – swift hopping/jumping motions). This information was necessary in my efforts to capture their musical spirits and recreate their physical/gestural languages in pianistic form. In addition, I incorporated many sounds, harmonies, and performance techniques that I had learned from my years of researching (and composing for) Chinese traditional instruments. As a way to appeal to young players, I approached these works as musical caricatures of each animal in their early years:

  1. Mischievous Mouse
  2. Little Ox
  3. Dance of the Tiger Cubs
  4. Prancing Bunny
  5. Little Dragon
  6. Playful Snakelets
  7. The Happy Foal
  8. Sleepy Lamb
  9. Monkey See, Monkey Do
  10. The Dancing Cockerel
  11. The Wandering Puppy
  12. Gentle Piglet

I would like to express my deepest thanks and gratitude to Derek Chiu and Queenie Yang of the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) for their input and critical feedback during the creation of this work, and to Elaine Rusk, Vice President of the RCM Certificate program, for her enthusiastic support. I also thank my daughter Claudia (age 8 at the time) who not only inspired me but also served as my co-collaborator – her approval of these works was the critical test to their effectiveness and appeal for players at her level. Last but not least, I must thank Liz Parker for suggesting this idea to me in the first place back in 2017.

Image credit: “Monkeys” by Lilith Ohan

To order the music, visit:
North America: www.presser.com/pe212-the-twelve-chinese-zodiac-animals-2c-book-1.html
International: www.promethean-editions.com/php/PubDetail.php?pubID=886
0,The Twelve Chinese Zodiac Animals, Book 1