Thought­ful fu­sion

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - PARENTING - By SHEELA CHAN­DRAN star2@thes­ Big Nose Pro­duc­tions presents Tales From The Bed­room at Indicine, KLPac, Sen­tul Park, Jalan Stra­chan, Kuala Lumpur on Feb 14-15 at 8.30pm, and mati­nees on Feb 15-16 at 3pm. Tick­ets are priced at RM33, call 03 4047

IT seemed like a bril­liant idea when China-based home­grown mu­si­cians Neil Chua and Heng Xi Ying de­cided to find a new di­rec­tion through the Chi­nese clas­si­cal land­scape. Driven with the de­sire to push the bound­aries be­tween clas­si­cal and mod­ern, the mu­si­cians have proven that with imag­i­na­tion and cre­ativ­ity, clas­si­cal pieces can be tweaked to give it a con­tem­po­rary feel while pre­serv­ing its orig­i­nal essence.

At their re­cent per­for­mance Les Melodies 4+21 at the newly setup The­atre Lounge Cafe (TLC) in Kuala Lumpur, Chua, who plays the ruan, and gu zheng player Heng, show­cased their ver­sa­til­ity and gave a re­fresh­ing twist to clas­si­cal com­po­si­tions with a mod­ern edge. Clas­si­cal pieces such as Drunken Mad­ness, The Blos­som of Spring and The Fish­ing Boats At Dusk were re­ar­ranged, up­lift­ing the bench­mark for clas­si­cal Chi­nese clas­si­cal fu­sion pieces.

On stage, the mu­si­cians didn’t dis­ap­point with solo re-com­po­si­tions ei­ther. Chua mes­merised the au­di­ence with his sub­tle ren­di­tion of The Sword, The Wa­ter Lily and The Folk Tune. The Klang, Se­lan­gor-born artiste, who is the only home­grown mu­si­cian to be con­ferred a Mas­ter’s De­gree from the pres­ti­gious Shang­hai Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic, clev­erly rein­ter­preted some tunes by vary­ing the tempo to give it a melan­cholic mod­ern touch. For The Folk Tune, he even jazzed up the tune to the point it was hard to tell if the orig­i­nal piece was ac­tu­ally clas­si­cal.

Heng also left ev­ery­one in awe, as her nim­ble fin­gers plucked along the silken strings of the wood zither play­ing pop­u­lar clas­si­cal tune High Moun­tain Flow­ing River, in­tense piece Bat­tling The Typhoon and care­free com­po­si­tion, The Spirit Of West Re­gions. She had the crowd eat­ing out of her palm as she show­cased her ver­sa­til­ity in bow­ing, ham­mer­ing and pluck­ing the strings to evoke the sense of thun­der and flow­ing wa­ter­falls.

What made the show­case even more in­ter­est­ing was TLC cu­ra­tor Pun Kai Loon’s ef­forts to give a brief de­scrip­tion of each piece be­fore the mu­si­cians took cen­trestage. This en­abled the au­di­ence to bet­ter un­der­stand the com­plex­ity of each piece and also each in­stru­ment, in­clud­ing its ori­gin, de­sign and unique­ness.

It also proved to be quite an eye­opener for many (in­clud­ing the writer) who just dis­cov­ered that the gu zheng is tuned to a pen­tonic scale and re­quires the player to tune dif­fer­ent scales by slid­ing each mov­able bridge.

The­atre Lounge Cafe is the lat­est busi­ness ven­ture by Pun and Khor Seng Chew of award-win­ning Dama Orches­tra. Set up to last month, the ex­per­i­men­tal space pro­vides ad­di­tional av­enue for artists and tech­ni­cians to sup­ple­ment their in­come in be­tween the­atre projects. Their pro­gramme in­cludes Chi­nese & Western Oldies Se­ries, Chi­nese & Western Play Se­ries, Chi­nese and Western in­stru­men­tal se­ries, Mu­sic The­atre Se­ries, Western Opera Se­ries as well as Chi­nese Opera Se­ries.

For Heng, the space is the per­fect plat­form to show­case clas­si­cal in­stru­ments with a mod­ern twist.

“Peo­ple tend to as­so­ci­ate Chi­nese clas­si­cal in­stru­ments with the older gen­er­a­tion. Given the av­enue, young mu­si­cians can pro­mote Chi­nese in­stru­ments and fuse it with other in­stru­ments. Hope­fully, show­cases of this sort will also in­spire a new younger gen­er­a­tion of mu­si­cians to pick up clas­si­cal Chi­nese in­stru­ments too,” said Heng, who is pur­su­ing her Mas­ters De­gree in Guzheng at the Cen­tral Con­ser­va­tory of Mu­sic in Bei­jing, China.

Neil Chua (left) and heng Xi ying mes­merised the au­di­ence with their per­for­mance, which gave a mod­ern twist to clas­si­cal Chi­nese pieces.

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