Concert of percussion

(shanghai daily)
Updated: 2006-11-09 09:09

Composer Qu Xiaosong, "a master of the tense silence," will give a multimedia percussion concert tonight. Stunning stage designs, aerial musicians, Song poetry chants and a tai chi master highlight the evening.

The multimedia percussion concert of Chinese composer Qu Xiaosong will be set - not in a traditional concert hall - but in an antique building within 50 Moganshan Road, a hub of Chinese contemporary art.

With a high ceiling graced with scarlet gauze decorations, the building is embellished with a rainbow of Chinese elements, such as giant traditional instruments, lifelike replicas of ancient frescoes, and long old wooden stools covered by red silk cushions.

Admission is free but seats are limited and reservations are suggested.

"I love the informal, free space of the building, which is perfect for my experimental concert, unlike formal traditional concert halls," says Qu who has been acclaimed by European critics as "a master of tense silence."

Qu explains that his concert named "Cursive," a flowing style of calligraphy, consists of three commissioned works that he has composed: a percussion trio "Lam Mot" for Hong Kong City Contemporary Dance Company and Percussion Group Cincinnati of the United States; a vocal and percussion work "Ding Feng Bo" or "Mirage" for the American Composers Forum and the Beijing Concert Hall; and the piano and percussion work "Cursive" for the renowned Taiwan-based Cloud Gate Dance Theater.

Qu, 54, will conduct the concert and chant two poems of the Song Dynasty (960-1279) poet Su Shi as part of the second piece "Ding Feng Bo," which is named after and inspired by one of Su's poems.

The concert will be presented by the Percussion Music Ensemble of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the New Zealand-based Chinese pianist/composer Gao Ping.

"The design of the stage scenes and the aerial movement of the musicians intertwined with the performance of tai chi master Wang Yanji will create a never-before-experienced theatrical effect and a world of harmony and interaction," says Qu, who has been deeply touched by Wang's tai chi playing.

Born in southwest China, Qu was sent to the countryside in Guizhou Province during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). He started to teach himself the violin in 1972. One year later, he became a violist in a Peking Opera troupe in his hometown. In 1978 he was selected by the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.

After studying composition for five years with his teacher Du Mingxin, Qu graduated and taught composition at the conservatory until 1988. His classmates Tan Dun, Ye Xiaogang and Guo Wenjin have all become internationally renowned composers.

"Most students in my class never received formal musical education or even touched a piano before entering the conservatory. But maybe it was the early experience in the countryside that gave me and others classmates a unique inspiration for our music," says Qu.

"I usually reach two extremes when composing - the very raw, rough and wild things that are close to the nature, and the extremely quiet things, about Heaven and Earth," he says.

Local music critic Wang Shu says Qu's music is unique.

"You can immediately identify his music - it is very slow, with a lot of silence, but it usually contains striking contrasts," says Wang. "He was inspired by his experience in a very silent audio lab in the United States, where he found he could only hear two kinds of sounds - the sound of his blood flowing and his nerves tingling."

In 1989 Qu was invited as a visiting scholar by the Center for US-China Arts Exchange of Columbia University where he received many commissions. They include works for the Holland Festival, the Kunsten-festival des Arts Brussels, the Festival d'Autumn A Paris and the Munich Biennale.

Reviews include such raves as "(it) opens up to an eternity reaching back in time" and "(it) fluctuates between intense peace and violent drama, lending it an extremely theatrical effect."

After 10 years in New York, Qu moved back to China to teach at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

"Now the cultural environment in Shanghai is shallow and bustling, and the cultural products lack variety," says Qu. "We artists should provide a variety of arts for people with different tastes.

"But now many performance agents and artists are only following the market, not developing the market. Qu, however, is resolutely trying to develop his own audience who wants his very unique music played in a very special venue.

Date: November 9, 11, 7:30pm
Address: 2/F, Bldg 17, 50 Moganshan Rd
Admission: Free
Tel: 021-6298-5722 (seats are limited, please call for RSVP)