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Beyond the Cultural Revolution: Premieres & Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera


Beyond the Cultural Revolution: Premieres & Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera


 Sophie Shao, Cello Photo by Neda Navaee

Sophie Shao, Cello
Photo by Neda Navaee

MON, JUL 23, 2018, 8:00 PM
Kaul Auditorium, Reed College
3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, 
Portland, Oregon 97202

Beyond the Cultural Revolution: Premieres & Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera

Hear Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera, and Northwest premieres of CMNW commissioned works by Vivian Fung and Xiaogang Ye, inspired by reflections of China and Chinese folk traditions.

 Cho-Liang Lin Violin

Cho-Liang Lin


XIAOGANG YE Gardenia for Pipa and String Quartet (2017)
Xiaogang Ye (b. 1955)
Gardenia, composed for string quartet and pipa, is among the subtropical plants series of composer Xiaogang Ye’s works, which include Enchanted Bamboo, Hibiscus, Datura, December Chrysanthemum, Scent of Green Mango, and more. These works show the Southern China-originated musician’s sensitivity and attention to the natural environment. Gardenia indistinctly means eternal joy in a Chinese context. It is born in a moist, natural environment with a faintly fragrant scent; its white color is of high aesthetic value to Asians, and it is often used as food and medicine in South Asia. The gardenia’s honey is with mild sweet and faint sweet. The gardenia is also a city flower of Yueyang City, which is a quiet and distant small city located in Hunan Province, Southern China. When composing this work, the composer adopted folk operas and folk songs from the area of Yueyuang, showing his yearning and a sense of loss for the beautiful scenery in South China.
—Program notes from the International Festival of Arts and Ideas

 Romie de Guise-Langlois, Clarinet Photo by Claire McAdams

Romie de Guise-Langlois, Clarinet
Photo by Claire McAdams

VIVIAN FUNG Frenetic Memories for Clarinet Quintet (2017)
Vivian Fung (b. 1975)
Clarinet Quintet: Frenetic Memories is inspired both by the music of minority groups in Southwest China and by my travels to that region in 2012. My memories of the trip are simultaneously vivid and scattered – we heard many different groups and stayed with local families and farmers, taking in many new sounds, sights, and experiences, and at times it was a bit overwhelming.

This quintet uses the sounds I heard as a departure for my own original music, with paraphrases here and there from different sources. Overall, the music is quite intense and evocative and especially features the clarinet in a virtuosic way. At the very end, I request that a recording of an Yi minority folk singer singing “Wei Mountain Song” be played as a paean to this extraordinary and little known music.

The work is dedicated to ethnomusicologist Zhang Xingrong (张兴荣).

—© Vivian Fung, composer

 Wu Man, Pipa Photo by Kuandi_Studio

Wu Man, Pipa
Photo by Kuandi_Studio

TAN DUN Ghost Opera (1994)
Tan Dun (b. 1957)
Ghost Opera is a five-movement work for string quartet and pipa with water, metal, stone, and paper. The composer describes this work as a reflection on human spirituality, which is too-often buried in the bombardment of urban culture and the rapid advances of technology. It is a cross-temporal, cross-cultural, and cross-media dialogue which touches on the past, present, future, and the eternal; employs elements from Chinese, Tibetan, English, and American cultures; and combines performance traditions of the European classical concert, Chinese shadow puppet theater, visual art installations, folk music, dramatic theater, and shamanistic ritual.

 Miró Quartet Ensemble

Miró Quartet

In composing Ghost Opera, Tan was inspired by childhood memories of the shamanistic “ghost operas” of Chinese peasant culture. In this tradition, which is over 4,000 years old, humans and spirits of the past and future communicate with each other. Tan’s Ghost Opera embraces this tradition, calling on the spirits of Bach (in the form of counterpoint quotation from the prelude in C sharp minor from Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier), Shakespeare (setting brief excerpts from The Tempest), and ancient folk tradition and earth/nature (represented by the Chinese folk song “Little Cabbage”). The Bach excerpt acts as “a seed from which grows a new counterpoint of different ages, different sound worlds, and different cultures.” In the final movement, the gradual transformation of the counterpoint brings the spirits of Bach and Shakespeare, the civilized world and rational mind – ”this insubstantial pageant” – into the eternal Earth.

The installation employs paper, shadow, and water gong basins placed around the theater. The performers’ movements among the seven positions reflect the back and forth movement between different time frames and spiritual realms, which is characteristic of the “ghost opera” tradition.
—© Peggy Monastra

 Daedalus Quartet, Ensemble Photos by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Daedalus Quartet, Ensemble
Photos by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco

Earlier Event: July 21
Rodney Carrington