Young com­posers get chance to un­der­stand Chi­nese cul­ture

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By ZHANG KUN in Shang­hai zhangkun@chi­nadaily.com.cn PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Af­ter lis­ten­ing to the Chi­nese bal­lad Lit­tle Cab­bage, Chris Molina, a young com­poser from Bos­ton, was re­minded about sto­ries he had heard about China.

In­spired by the sto­ries of young peo­ple leav­ing the coun­try­side and mov­ing to the city, Molina com­posed Lit­tle Girl in the Big City for dizi (the Chi­nese flute) and orches­tra.

The piece pre­miered at the Hear­ing China II con­cert at the He Lut­ing Con­cert Hall of the Shang­hai Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic in Novem­ber 2016.

“Imag­in­ing Lit­tle Cab­bage in the big city,” the young com­poser writes in the in­tro­duc­tion to his piece, “is both sad and up­lift­ing at the same time.

“Hear­ing her song min­gle, re­act, fight, take flight, and at times get swal­lowed up by the sounds of the city is a metaphor easy to un­der­stand,” he says.

The con­cert fea­tured eight mu­sic pieces by young com­posers from around the world.

Molina is a stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Hawaii. And the other mu­si­cians are from the Shang­hai Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic, Ox­ford, Yale, Poland and New Zealand.

The Hear­ing China project was launched in 2015, and is the brain­child of Ye Guo­hui, a dean at the SCM.

Ye is an award-win­ning com­poser, with works fea­tur­ing Chi­nese cul­ture and mu­sic her­itage.

He has also pro­duced elec­tronic, ex­per­i­men­tal and con­cep­tual works.

He says the aim of the pro­gram is to have “an in­ter­na­tional plat­form for com­posers to un­der­stand tra­di­tional Chi­nese mu­sic cul­ture and also to cre­ate and per­form in­no­va­tive works. It is a win­dow for cul­tural ex­change”.

In­ge­nious ideas have to be used to make China’s cul­ture in­ter­est­ing and Chi­nese art easy to un­der­stand, he says.

A few years ago, Ye com­posed a piece for so­prano and orches­tra, Drink­ing Wine by the Stream’s Choice, based on an es­say by Wang Xizhi (303361) called Lant­ing Ji Xu, which doc­u­ments a literati gath­er­ing in the fourth cen­tury.

Ye pre­sented the piece at mu­sic fes­ti­vals abroad, per­form­ing the mu­sic, as well as telling the story of how an­cient Chi­nese schol­ars par­tied.

Ac­cord­ing to Wang’s es­say, artists, writ­ers and po­ets would sit at the river bank with a spe­cial cup that floated on the wa­ter.

When the cup floated near one of them, he would com­pose a stanza and drink the wine.

Ye even had an in­stal­la­tion de­signed to al­low the au­di­ence to play the game.

“It is a great de­vice to tell a story to an in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence, and let them par­tic­i­pate in the cre­ative ex­pe­ri­ence,” he says.

“We want to have in-depth com­mu­ni­ca­tion with other coun­tries.

“Cul­tural in­flu­ence is a sub­tle process. It does not work by feed­ing oth­ers what you pro­duce.”

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween artists and in­tel­lec­tu­als from dif­fer­ent cul­tural back­grounds is im­por­tant to in­spire new works, Ye says.

As a mem­ber of an ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion, he be­lieves com­mu­ni­ca­tion can be achieved be­tween mu­si­cians all over the world.

The 2017 Hear­ing China con­cert will kick off with a con­cert at the Shang­hai Sym­phony Hall on Nov 12.

Young mu­si­cians from Is­rael, Aus­tralia, Rus­sia and Canada will present tra­di­tional Chi­nese opera, folk songs and tra­di­tional melodies, with their adap­ta­tions, ar­range­ments and com­po­si­tions based on the mo­tif.

While Hear­ing China is about the in­ter­na­tional mu­sic com­mu­nity’s un­der­stand­ing of Chi­nese mu­sic, the re­cent con­cert by C ASEAN Con­so­nant Ensem­ble was dif­fer­ent.

The ensem­ble has been ac­tive since 2015, and com­prises mu­si­cians from the 10 As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions, each play­ing their tra­di­tional mu­sic in­stru­ments.

When Ye learned about the group’s tour plan ear­lier this year, he urged them to add one more con­cert to their sched­ule — one in Shang­hai, to play com­po­si­tions by the stu­dents and teach­ers of the Shang­hai Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic.

The con­cert called Be­yond Fron­tier: The Har­mo­nious Spirit of China-ASEAN took place at the Shang­hai Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic on May 17, and fea­tured 13 pieces cre­ated for the ensem­ble by the post­grad­u­ate stu­dents and young teach­ers of the con­ser­va­tory.

Even though the stu­dents and schol­ars at the con­ser­va­tory are ex­posed to lots of mu­sic gen­res, styles and forms from all over the world, they still found “some of the in­stru­ments com­pletely new”, says Ye.

Af­ter the ensem­ble ar­rived in Shang­hai, the mu­si­cians worked with the com­posers on the mu­sic.

“It was a great op­por­tu­nity to learn about the folk mu­sic of South­east Asia,” says Ye, who hopes to ex­tend the col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Now thanks to the sup­port from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties, the city’s pro­fes­sional or­ches­tras, such as the Shang­hai Sym­phony and the Shang­hai Phil­har­monic, will present con­certs fea­tur­ing the works of stu­dents, says Ye.

(right), a dean at the Shang­hai Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic, has ini­ti­ated many cul­tural-ex­change pro­grams among mu­si­cians from home and abroad, such as a re­cent con­cert by C ASEAN Con­so­nant Ensem­ble in Shang­hai.

Ye Guo­hui

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