Episodes:

Photographs by Scott Friedlander ©2013. Used with permission.

Jason Kao Hwang’s EDGE Ensemble:
Burning Bridge

Delve into the raucous, funky world of Jason Hwang’s eight-piece band and their rowdy, collective improvisations that invoke the legacies of New Orleans jazz, Ornette Coleman, and Charles Mingus. He is joined by a deep brass section with Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet and flugelhorn, Joe Daley on tuba, and Steve Swell on trombone, plus Ken Filiano on bass, Andrew Drury on drums, Wang Guowei on erhu (Chinese fiddle), and Sun Li on pipa (Chinese lute). This concert was presented in 2010 in conjunction with the exhibition Fiona Tan: Rise and Fall.

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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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Chinese Music for the Lunar New Year

Also called the Spring Festival, the Lunar New Year in China marks the traditional start of the agricultural season. It’s also a time to admire the hearty plum blossom, which flowers so early that snow is sometimes still on the ground. Enjoy these performances of music celebrating plum blossoms, lingering snow, and the arrival of springtime. This compilation draws from concerts at the museum featuring Bing Xia on zheng, Yi Zhou on pipa and qin, Miao Yi Min on xiao and dizi, and the Gang-a-Tsui Theater, all recorded live at the National Museum of Asian Art.

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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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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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Chinese Music of the Seasons:
Bing Xia, zheng

Celebrate the mid-autumn Moon Festival or get in the mood for spring with this entrancing performance on the ancient zheng (a zither) by virtuoso Bing Xia, a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory. She performs works devoted to the Moon (a key focus of the autumn festival), the fall migration of wild geese, and thoughts occasioned by the autumn season, as well as music invoking springtime, fishing, mountains, and rivers. This performance was recorded at the Freer and Sackler Galleries in 2000 in conjunction with the exhibition Music in the Age of Confucius.

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Chinese Bronze Age bells.

Hear new music for Bronze Age bells, recent works for Chinese instruments, folk songs in modern arrangements by Pulitzer Prize winner Zhou Long, and musical scores found in the 11th-century Buddhist caves in Dunhuang. Grammy-nominated composer Zhou Tian’s Hundred Antiquities was co-commissioned by the Freer and Sackler Galleries in conjunction with the exhibition Resound: Ancient Bells of China.

Hundred Antiquities: Music From China

Hear new music for Bronze Age bells, folk songs arranged by Pulitzer Prize winner Zhou Long, music from 11th-century Buddhist caves, and “Hundred Antiquities” by Grammy-nominated composer Zhou Tian, co-commissioned by the Freer and Sackler Galleries. This concert was presented in 2018 in conjunction with the exhibition Resound: Ancient Bells of China.

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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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Gao Hong and Issam Rafea perform on the Chinese and Arab lutes on September 14, 2019.

Enjoy these soothing, sophisticated duets on Chinese and Arab lutes by virtuosos of the pipa and ‘ud. Gao Hong and Issam Rafea engage in musical conversations that highlight the expressive magic of instruments that share common roots but are rarely heard together.

Musical Encounters along the Silk Road:
Gao Hong, pipa, and Issam Rafea, ‘ud

Enjoy these soothing, sophisticated duets on Chinese and Arab lutes, improvised by virtuosos Gao Hong on the pipa and Issam Rafea on the ‘ud. Their musical conversations highlight the expressive magic of two instruments that share common roots but are rarely heard together.

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“The Shanghai Quartet performs composer Ye Xiaogang’s Colorful Sutra Banner as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series. The quartet is accompanied by Gloria Chien on the piano.”

Colorful Sutra Banner: Shanghai Quartet, with Gloria Chien, Piano

Hear composer Ye Xiaogang’s musical work Colorful Sutra Banner, inspired by the Buddhist prayer flags he saw in the Tibetan landscape. The same artists who played the composition’s American premiere at Lincoln Center perform on this podcast. Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E-flat Major and Franck’s Piano Quintet in F Minor complete the program.

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