The Tea Horse Road was a network of caravan paths connecting China and South Asia. In the past, tea was worth more than porcelain and silk, and merchants often exchanged Tibetan ponies for Chinese tea. The horses were used to fight warring nomads in the north, and tea was used for medical treatments. After 1957, materials and commodities were transported by motorway, turning the Tea-Horse Road obsolete, and into a tourist attraction instead.

In my composition, I blended instruments of low sonority like the double bass and tuba to create a feeling of earthy tones like the trade route itself. The ‘breathe-tones’ from woodwind instruments playing single melodic lines help bring about a sense of forlornness from the merchants who faced poverty and hardship. In addition, the string family playing the rhythmic ostinato pattern depicts the entire stretch of caravan inching the switchbacks to cross the pass. Last but not least, brass instruments like horns incites perseverance, determination, and also a tinge of oriental hue to the piece.



Tea Horse Road


About the Artist

Jon Tho is a Singaporean composer and has collaborated with groups such as the Mandelring Quartett, Ensemble de la Belle Musique, and The Showbear Family Circus. He has also been awarded several accolades for his works from participating in various competitions from across the world. His music has been described as “utmost colorful” and “warm in spirit”. Jon is also a member of the Composers Society of Singapore, The Boston New Music Initiative, and Black Dot Press. During his free time, he enjoys cooking and reading. To view more of his work click below.