Music From China’s 30th Anniversary and Beyond
The Latest Update
Performance of Chen Yi’s Three Dances from China South in Bryant Park
Monday, June 8, 2015 at 5:30 PM
Upper Terrace Steps / Bryant Park
New Music in Bryant Park presents award-winning classical and jazz ensembles showcasing works commissioned by Chamber Music America. At this year’s 3rd annual concert series, Music From China will perform an eclectic mix of traditional Chinese and contemporary classical music, with Chen Yi’s CMA commissioned work celebrating our 30th anniversary and works by other illustrious composers. Admission is free.
TRADITIONAL: Birds in the Forest
TRADITIONAL: Mongolian Horse Race
TRADITIONAL: Ambush on Ten Sides
YANG YONG: River Songs
ZHOU LONG: Taiping Gu
CHEN YI: Three Dances from China South
ZHOU LONG: Mount a Long Wind
30th Anniversary & Beyond Final Update
In celebration of Music From China’s 30th anniversary, world premieres of commissioned works by Chen Yi, Eric Moe, Huang Ruo, Wang Guowei and a work by Zhou Long written for our 20th anniversary were performed at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 21, 2014., The program was repeated the following day at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. An open rehearsal at the Chatham Square Library before the premiere offered a community audience the opportunity to hear the new works and meet the composers and musicians.
The following is a review in the Washington Post (Nov. 23, 2014):
Music From China Combines Tradition with Modern Flair
— By Stephen Brookes
It would be tough to get more up-to-the-minute than the concert of contemporary Chinese music at the Freer Gallery of Art on Saturday, where four of the six works on the program were written just this year. And it would be equally hard to find such a range of richly imaginative new work — steeped in tradition yet thoroughly 21st-century — that transcends nationalism but retains, at its heart, a compelling and distinctive Chinese sensibility.
That description might also apply to the venerable New York-based ensemble Music From China, which designed a program to dovetail with the new Freer exhibit “The Traveler’s Eye.” Combining such traditional instruments as the erhu (a two-string fiddle), pipa (lute) and dizi (bamboo flute) with cello and Western percussion, the group opened with the 18th-century reverie “A Moonlit River in Spring,” then embarked on more modern journeys in Chen Yi’s lively, folk-song-based “Three Dances From China South” (2014), Eric Moe’s “A Panoramic Guide to Glacier Travel” (a dense new work that unfolds with the stately gravity of glaciers) and the poignant, plaintive and moving “Leaving Home” (2014), by the ensemble’s erhu virtuoso, Wang Guowei.
But the standouts may have been two striking and very exciting works by Zhou Long and Huang Ruo. Long’s “Mount a Long Wind” is a vivid, edge-of-the-seat tone-poem from 2004 depicting the voyage of a Chinese dragon boat through a gathering storm. Ruo’s “The Murmuring Path” wasn’t as overtly specific — the composer describes it as “a personal journey” — but was just as perfectly drawn: an expressive and fiercely inventive new work, exploding with off-kilter rhythms, otherworldly colors and wild, galloping imagination.
Composers on Their Works
“A Panoramic Guide to Glacier Travel”
for pipa, erhu, cello, zheng, and percussion
A Panoramic Guide to Glacier Travel was inspired by Chinese shan shui (literally, mountain-water) painting, and specifically the magnificent long horizontal landscape scrolls designed to be unrolled gradually, in sections, so as to give the viewer the sensation of taking a journey through a mountainous landscape. This piece is similarly episodic yet connected, and suggestive of various listener-constructed narratives, which may incorporate the grinding of glacier against bedrock, breathtakingly deep and deep-blue crevasses, ice-dancing, etc. (Unlike actual glacier travel, which is risky and requires special equipment, no specialized knowledge is required for listening to the piece).
A Panoramic Guide to Glacier Travel is dedicated to Chen Yi, whose friendship is one of my great treasures. Profound thanks as well to Susan Cheng, the director of Music From China, and the wonderful performers who have patiently answered many questions. My thanks also go to the artist Barbara Bernstein, who kindly lent me her copy of Guo Xi’s 11th-century treatise on landscape painting, Lofty Ambitions in Forests and Streams. Thanks also to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Ragdale Foundation for residency fellowships that enabled the composition of the piece.
“Three Dances From China South”
for dizi, erhu, pipa, and zheng
Mvmt 1. Lions Playing Ball
Mvmt 2. Bamboo Dance
Mvmt 3. Lusheng Dance
My chamber ensemble work Three Dances from China South is commissioned by Music From China to celebrate its 30th anniversary, and scored for Chinese traditional instruments dizi, erhu, pipa, and zheng. The commission has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund. The world premiere is given at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall in New York City, on November 21, 2014.
There are three movements in Three Dances from China South. Material in the first movement “Lions Playing Ball” is drawn from a folk tune played in the accompanying ensemble for the folk dance of the same title in the Chaozhou region of Guangdong province. The image of the folk dance is vivid and entertaining. The movement includes several variations on the theme. The variation methods are inspired by the various rhythmic patterns used in traditional ensemble playing. The melodic material features a special mode with a triton interval taken from the folk tune. There are also lyrical sections with polyphonic layers in the variations.
The music in the second movement is inspired by the folk “Bamboo Dance,” which is popular among the Li minority people of Hainan Island in the south. In this age-old folk dance, performed for ritual ceremony and harvest celebration, pairs of people hold the ends of long bamboo poles and clap them loudly in stable pulse, while groups of dancers dance between the poles on the floor, in varied musical rhythms and ensemble patterns. A musical motive with a jumping interval and articulation is used throughout the movement.
The third movement is called “Lusheng Dance.” I have witnessed the folk dance performance of the Dong minority people in Guangxi province in the 1980’s. The exciting scene inspired me to imitate the large lusheng ensemble playing style in my ensemble of four Chinese instrumentalists without using the sheng (a wind instrument with metal pipes popular in concert music, and similar to the folk lusheng). Overlaying the rhythmic patterns, I imitated a two-voice folk song of the Zhuang minority people from the same province. The melody is played by the leading erhu and dizi.
“Mount a Long Wind”
for pipa, dizi, erhu, zheng and percussion
The music reflects the vivid imageries of Li Bai’s poem “The Hard Road.” Textured waves accompanied by strong rhythmic chords symbolize a journey—to mount a long wind and break the heavy waves. Vigorous rhythmic sections conjuring up the driving dragon boat and gentle melodies evoking the sounds of nature are followed by a recapitulation which brings the music to a celebratory climax.
Premiere Works XXIII: 30th Anniversary Concert
Music From China
Premiere Works XXIII: 30th Anniversary Concert
Nov. 20, 2014, 5 PM
Composers discussion, open rehearsal
Chatham Square Library
33 East Broadway, New York, NY
Nov. 21, 2014, 8 PM
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
154 W. 57th St., New York, NY
Tickets $25, $10 students/seniors
Nov. 22, 2014, 3 PM
Freer & Sackler Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution
1050 Independence Ave. S.W., Washington, DC
CHEN YI: Three Dances from China South (World Premiere)
Mvmt. 1 – Lions Playing Ball
Mvmt. 2 – Lusheng Dance of Dong People
Mvmt. 3 – Bamboo Dance of Li People
For erhu, zheng, pipa, dizi
ERIC MOE: A Panoramic Guide to Glacier Travel (World Premiere)
For pipa, erhu, zheng, cello, percussion
HUANG RUO: The Paths (World Premiere)
WANG GUOWEI: Leaving Home (World Premiere)
For erhu, piccolo, cello
ZHOU LONG: Mount a Long Wind
For erhu, pipa, zheng, dizi, percussion
Wang Guowei, erhu
Chen Yihan, pipa
Hong-Da Chin, dizi, piccolo
Zhou Jing, zheng
Michael Katz, cello
Frank Cassara, percussion
Pittsburgh composer Eric Moe will be commissioned to write a work of cross-cultural synthesis on the occasion of Music From China’s 30th anniversary celebration in 2014. He joins Chinese-born composers Chen Yi and Huang Ruo in marking this milestone with music that reflects Music From China’s vision in extending Chinese music into the present and beyond.
Eric Moe will pursue a cross-cultural synthesis in his composition. The piece, 15–20 minutes in duration, will be scored for an ensemble consisting of pipa, erhu, zheng, percussion, and cello. It will reflect the composer’s recent interest in Romantic and post-Romantic notions of the natural world and the natural Sublime, examining specifically the musical tropes of landscape, a common subject of both traditional Chinese and 19th century Western art music. Not intending to pursue a “Chinese sound,” Eric’s music creates a different sound world born of his imagination.
Drawing creative energy from her cultural heritage, Chen Yi will compose a chamber work for the Chinese instruments erhu (2-string fiddle), zheng (zither with movable bridges), dizi (bamboo flute) and sheng (reeded mouth organ). The tentative title of Chinese Dancing Tunes is a multi movement work with contrasts between movements in tempo, mood, style, and color, incorporating the spirit of court dance and folk dances with different regional characteristics.
The past is the future in Huang Ruo’s The Paths, a mixed ensemble of erhu, pipa, sheng, dizi, cello, and percussion. It is a drama that continues the path of preserving the dying traditions of Tang dynasty court music (ya yue) and ancient southern style opera, and building modern original music to create a new direction.
Rounding out this program is Zhou Long’s previously commissioned masterwork The Five Elements which will receive its New York debut. The five elemental energies that compose the physical universe—metal, wood, water, fire, earth—are each represented in one of five movements using rich timbral colors of dizi, clarinet, pipa, erhu, cello, and percussion.
Three public events will be presented in conjunction with our 30th anniversary celebration of new music:
“Premiere Works XXIII: 30th Anniversary Concert” at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall (Nov. 2014). The four composers’ works will be given world and New York premieres at this annual flagship concert. It draws an audience of musicians, composers, new music listeners, arts professionals, Chinese music and culture enthusiasts, students, scholars, and the Chinese American community.
Open rehearsal and Composers Discussion at Chatham Square Library (Nov. 2014). A free event in the Chinese community prior to the Premiere Works concert at Weill Recital Hall brings together composers and musicians with the audience to talk about the creative process and gain insight into the new works. This outreach also raises awareness and appreciation by the local Chinese community which is unfamiliar with new music and seldom concert goers.
“Premiere Works XXIII” at the Freer & Sackler Gallery of Art at the Smithsonian Institution (Nov. 2014). Immediately following the Weill Recital Hall concert, the program will be performed for the Washington, DC audience.
COMPOSER: Eric Moe, for pipa and electroacoustic sound. This piece exemplifies the kind of cross-cultural synthesis I will bring to the project. It places the pipa in a highly rhythmicized context that evokes blues and rock improvisation. The blues becomes explicit with the quotation from Leadbelly beginning at 1:23. Performer: Wu Man, pipa (recorded 2005). Listen from beginning through 1:30.
Movement 1 of “The Ancient Beauty” by Chen Yi. “Taotie” is the fierce animal-like patterns on bronze wine vessels used in primitive sacrificial ceremonies during the Shang dynasty. This auspicious symbol had the power to protect again evil. The ferocious beauty of the bronze art represents the irresistible force of historical inevitability. Performers: Gao Renyang, xun/dizi; Wang Guowei, erhu; Sun Li, pipa; Susan Cheng, zheng; Philadelphia Classical Symphony (string orchestra) conducted by Karl Middleman (recorded 2006). Cue: 0:00
Movement 2 of “The Five Elements” by Zhou Long. The five elemental energies held by the ancient Chinese to compose the physical universe are metal, wood, water, fire, earth. Wood symbolizes spring. Percussive rhythm on wooden percussive instruments and pizzicato playing on strings run through this movement as the creative energy of “spring fever.” Performers: Shuni Zou, dizi; Alan Kay, clarinet; Chen Yihan, pipa; Wang Guowei, erhu; Fred Sherry, cello; Frank Cassara, percussion (recorded 2004). Cue: 0:00
Start and End Dates
09/01/2014 — 06/30/2015
New York City, New York