Chinese Visionary: Music of Ge Gan-ru

Experience the unique musical voice of Chinese-born composer Ge Gan-ru, who expands the language of chamber music in provocative and challenging ways. His compositions emphasize novel playing techniques, unorthodox forms, Chinese tone qualities, and melodic ideas that range from the lyrical and charming to the searing and tragic. On this podcast, hear four of his works performed by the Shanghai Quartet with pianist Kathryn Woodard, the ModernWorks ensemble, and pianist Margaret Leng Tan on toy instruments in a work based on a twelfth-century Chinese poem. These performances were recorded in 2006 and 2007 at the Meyer Auditorium of the Freer Gallery of Art as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series.

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Seven musicians, wearing white and standing with their instruments in front of a verdant bamboo forest.

Photo courtesy of Ba Bang Chinese Music Society (NY)

Traditional Chinese Music:
The Han Tang Ensemble

Travel to long-ago China in this performance of lively and entrancing music invoking moonlit rivers, plum blossoms, peacocks, an early spring snow, and the stories of famous legends from Ancient China. This outstanding ensemble of musicians — all trained in China— perform on traditional lute (pipa), fiddle (erhu), hammered dulcimer (yangqin), zither (qin), and mouth organ (sheng). This performance was recorded live in concert at the Meyer Auditorium of the Freer Gallery of Art on April 29, 2002.

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Photos by Witjak Widhi Cahya

Komungo Muse and Permutations:
Jin Hi Kim

Experience a uniquely Korean approach to music through original works for the classical Korean komungo (zither) that utilize interactive computer audio to create entirely new worlds of sound based on Korean aesthetics. Kim has appeared as a soloist at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and her works have been performed by the Kronos Quartet and the American Composers Orchestra. In the words of the Washington Post, her “unique vision blends . . . state-of-the-art technology, ancient mythology, and timeless music and dance traditions” and her works “cut across barriers of language, culture, and tradition, touch us at deep, irrational levels [and] result in a work that speaks to our common humanity.” This performance was recorded live in concert at the Freer Gallery of Art on January 21, 2000.

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From Buddhist Caves to the Pulitzer Prize:
Music From China Ensemble

Hear original music for Chinese instruments written by four leading composers from China, including Pulitzer Prize winner Zhou Long, performed by North America’s top virtuosos on Chinese wind and string instruments. All the works on this podcast received their Washington premiere at this 1998 concert by the New York–based Music From China ensemble and the New Music Consort. Two of the works were inspired by the eighth-century Buddhist caves in Dunhuang, where music scores were found along with a trove of ancient religious manuscripts.

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Detail, At Ease in the Countryside: Scholars and Fishermen. Yamamoto Baiitsu (1783–1856).

Much of the Japanese and Chinese music heard on this podcast evokes some aspect of nature: waves, birds, trees, sunrise, and the seasons. Japanese artists have sometimes depicted the koto (or a related instrument) being played by scholars contemplating the natural world, as in the screen above—an approach incorporated from Chinese tradition. Detail, At Ease in the Countryside: Scholars and Fishermen. Yamamoto Baiitsu (1783–1856). Japan, Edo period, 19th century. Six-panel screen; ink and light color on paper. Purchase, F1961.1

Music for the Soul:
From East Asia to the Middle East

Relax with gentle yet invigorating music performed by virtuoso artists from Japan, China, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and the United States. These diverse concerts were recorded live at the Freer and Sackler Galleries between 2008 and 2019.

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