Tuned in, toned up

Updated: 2013-03-22 09:53

By Chen Jie (China Daily)

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Tuned in, toned up

Five world-acclaimed musicians - (from left) Kalevi Aho, Michael Gordon, Augusta Read Thomas, Sebastian Currier and Robin Holloway - take a closer look at the country's folk arts and culture, such as Luoxi Opera in Anshun, Guizhou province, during their 2011 visit to China. Photos Provided to China Daily

Five new works by international composers that were inspired by a visit to China signify a new approach to cultural exchanges. Chen Jie finds out more.

Five renowned composers recently debuted their China-themed works in one concert, a landmark event that signifies a new approach to the country's diverse cultural environment. Kristjan Jarvi and Zhang Yi took turns with the baton to conduct the National Center for the Performing Arts Orchestra during the Sunday concert in Beijing at the NCPA. All five pieces were inspired by a September 2011 visit to China by the five composers that took place in Beijing, Shanghai, Shaanxi, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces. During this time the composers were introduced to the country's folk arts, culture and people.

American composer Michael Gordon's Beijing Harmony is inspired by the Temple of Heaven's Echo Wall; while British composer Robin Holloway's In China depicts the unchanging beauty of the countryside.

Finland's Kalevi Aho's Gejia-Chinese Images for Orchestra reflects his visit to a Gejia ethnic group village in Guizhou; American Sebastian Currier's Quanta interprets Chinese characters; while fellow American Augusta Read Thomas' Harvest Drum celebrates the Miao people, another ethnic group in Guizhou.

"Each of the five works is extremely different. They portray China from different angles but have certain common characteristics - the great spirituality of the country, its culture and people," Jarvi says.

"I must say the NCPA is an active and imaginative organization to invite such great foreign musicians to see China, compose for the country and promote its culture," the conductor adds.

"What is China? How is China?" composer Hao Weiya rhetorically asks after the concert. "There is never a single answer. The five pieces of music prove it. From their musical language I can tell they have so much to say, that they are eager to express. Obviously, their first China tour gave them enough material to create."

Hao says Debussy (1862-1918) heard Southeast Asian music for the first time at the Paris World Expo in 1889, which greatly influenced his compositions and other Western composers of the time.


Tuned in, toned up

 Tuned in, toned up
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