The 70|80 generation is increasingly turning to ritual and drama as a basis for musical structure. In this regard, they avoid the easily recognized musical symbols favored by the previous generation and revolutionize the very conceit of the concert.
This program introduces a series of works for acoustic, avant-garde percussion (and one solo accordion work), all influenced by musical drama, written by some of the defining individual voices of the 70|80 new concert music composer from China.
Liang Lei, Dialectal Percussions for solo percussion
Liang’s work often explores the tensions between juxtaposing intricately composed structures with chance or free operations chosen by the players. Dialectal Percussions is one of Liang’s breakout pieces, written at the age of 22. Inspired by “the dramatic expression” found in the Beijing linguistic dialect, Liang describes the piece as a “monodrama in which all ‘musical dialects’ symbolize a spiritual offering.”
Dialectal Percussions established an artistic agenda to which Liang has stayed true in the subsequent 18 years, with a multitude of variations: inspiration structured on Chinese aesthetic principles, but a general avoidance of recognizably Chinese “source material.” Such paradoxes are intentionally heightened through Liang’s instruction to stage the piece as a ritualized drama.
This performance is the China premiere of Dialectal Percussions.
Chen Bingye, Improvisation for solo percussion
This performance is the China premiere of Improvisation, performed by the composer.
Wang Jue,“…” for two percussionists
Wang Jue’s works are often inspired from the use of negative space or philosophical quandaries, their essence encapsulated by titles employing single Chinese characters or single German words. In the case of the work “…” for two percussionists, Wang goes a step further.
Omitting words, he pushes for a total minimal statement. This piece is as much about the relationship between the performers as about typical questions of technique. Development of musical motives is eschewed for gradual buildup of dynamic and momentum. By placing the two performers, side-by-side, together on single instruments, their essential relationship is questioned and dramatized in a provoking and gripping non-verbal narrative.
This performance is the China premiere of “…” for two percussionists.
Dai Bo, Drunk on Beijing, for accordion solo
Dai Bo’s title to ZuiJingFeng can be interpreted in different ways: “Peking Opera Craze” or “Drunk on Beijing.” As an extroverted, virtuosic piece for accordion, the piece was selected as a required piece for the 2010 Harbin International Accordion Competition, and achieved great success in its performance in Lithuania the following year.
Wang Lu, Spring Struck, for percussion quartet and recorded sounds
Wang Lu’s piece for four percussionists and recorded sounds involves complex, yet humorous, collisions of character dealing with personal and regional memories, from Qin opera, to childhood toys. In her program notes, she writes, “Peasants go out into the field, waving their hoes to loosen the sterile soil, singing ancient Qin opera…. A wandering songstress serenades with a love tune: ‘To the edge of the world, I’m seeking for a soul-mate... wish our hearts are abide...’ What a thin breeze of sweet air! This recording was popular during occupied Shanghai in the 1930s.
The unresolved dissonances from Chopin’s A-minor Prelude hang in the wind. In spring 2009, these sounds, imageries, and histories haunted me.”
First performed in New York in 2009, this performance is the China premiere of Spring Struck.
Chen Bingye (b. 1982, Dalian) is recognized as one of the most versatile young percussion artists in China working in contemporary music, solo repertoire, and orchestral performance, as well as in the fields of composition and improvisation. She is a founding member of the China Modern Percussion group and principal timpanist of the EOS orchestra. She studied at the Central Conservatory of Music and England's Royal Northern Collage of Music; her teachers include Liu Guangsi, Liu Gang, Li Biao, Ian Wright and Simone Rebello. She has held solo and chamber concerts around the world; as principal timpanist, she has performed at a number of classical music festivals in Europe. She has recorded and premiered the works of many well-known composers including Chen Yi, Chou Wen-chung, Tan Dun, Ye Xiaogang, and Zhou Long. She has worked with the Asia Philharmonic, China Symphony, Macau Symphony, and the Orchestra of National Center of Performing Arts. Currently she is a teacher at the Central Conservatory.
The musical prowess of Dai Bo (b. 1988, Changchun) has brought him numerous awards and honors both in China and around the world. In 2010, he won the award of the Young Composers Project of the Beijing Modern Music Festival. In 2012, he won an important prize in the Singapore International Competition for Composition. In 2008, he was invited to create an arrangement for the CCTV National Day Concert. In 2009 he was invited by the German Radio Orchestra to arrange another arrangement for performance on a global tour. His commissioned orchestra work Hymn was successfully premiered at the China National Theatre. In 2012, Dai Bo was invited to participate in the Warsaw Autumn Festival in Poland in which his orchestral work Illusion Butterfly was premiered. Born in 1988, he lost his sight due to illness at the age of 6; he is currently a graduate student at the Central Conservatory in both composition and piano performance.
Liang Lei (b. 1972, Tianjin) has achieved recognition as one of the unique musical voices spearheading the second wave of Chinese-born composers achieving international prominence. Liang Lei’s compositions have garnered praise as “hauntingly beautiful and sonically colorful” by The New York Times, and as “far, far out of the ordinary, brilliantly original and inarguably gorgeous” by The Washington Post. In his teens he studied at the middle school of the Central Conservatory in Beijing and, in 1989, won a premiere prize from the Beijing Youth Daily. At age 17, he left for the United States and studied at the New England Conservatory and at Harvard University, where he received a doctoral degree. He has taught at Wuhan Conservatory, and currently teaches at the University of California, San Diego. He was a Rome Prize and Guggenheim recipient, and his music was featured on the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural CONTACT! in 2011.
While the prominence of Wang Jue (b. 1979, Fushan) is chiefly built on large works performed by numerous European orchestras of global stature (including the North German Radio Symphony, the WDR Orchestra, the SWR Symphony, the BochumerSymphoniker, and Ensemble Intégrales), he also boasts a parallel oeuvre of works for small-scale chamber music forces. He has studied and taught at the Shanghai Conservatory and at the Karlsruhe Conservatory, and teaches at the China Conservatory in Beijing, splitting his time between Germany and China.
Brought up in a musical family with strong influences of China’s Northwest, especially Chinese opera, the works of Wang Lu (b. 1983, Xi’an) reflect those influences via lenses of contemporary instrumental techniques and new sonic possibilities. Her works for a variety of Western and Chinese ensembles and orchestras have been performed in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Europe, and the United States. Wang Lu received her doctoral degree in composition at Columbia University in 2012, after graduating with highest honors from the Central Conservatory of Music in 2005. She continues to research Chinese folk music with the Columbia Center for East Asian Studies.