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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Photo courtesy of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

New Sounds from Arab Lands

Relax to mellow, Arab-inspired jazz by five accomplished performer-composers from Syria and Tunisia and featuring clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, who earned a Grammy Award with the Silkroad Ensemble for their 2017 CD Sing Me Home. This innovative quintet creates new music inspired by Middle Eastern traditions with influences from jazz and Western classical music, blending composition with improvisation in vibrant ways. Kinan Azmeh is joined by Basel Rajoub on tenor saxophone, Jasser Haj Youssef on violin and viola d’amore, Feras Charestan on qanun, and Khaled Yassine on percussion. The New Sounds project was developed by the Aga Khan Music Initiative, a program of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and presented at the Freer Gallery in 2013.

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Asian American Jazz Pioneers:
The Far East Side Band

Journey to a unique soundscape that blends contemporary jazz with East Asian instruments and styles, all performed by this path-breaking ensemble of the late 1990s. Composer, and violinist Jason Kao Hwang subsequently earned best-of-the-year listings in Downbeat, Jazz Times, Jazziz, and All About Jazz. His chamber opera, The Floating Box, A Story in Chinatown, was named among the top ten recordings of 2005 by Opera News. This early experimental quartet also features multi-percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, jazz tuba artist Joseph Daley, and Sang-Won Park on Korean zithers (kayagum and ajaeng). The notes include essays on Asian American jazz and Jason Hwang’s new introduction. Their performance took place at the Freer Gallery of Art in 1999.

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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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Songs of Okinawa: The Ryukyuans

Enjoy music unique to Japan’s southernmost region, from the lyrical songs and dance rhythms of folk music to contemporary styles inspired by jazz and pop. The Ryukyuans trio features Yukito Ara, Isamu Shimoji, and Shinobu Matsuda on vocals and the sanshin (Okinawan lute). They are joined by Satoshi “Sunday” Nakasone on Okinawan drum. Recorded in concert at the Freer Gallery as part of the Music From Japan Festival 2014.

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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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Kadri Gopalnath in performance at Le Guess Who? (Netherlands) in 2018 (photo leguesswho.nl)

Saxophone Summit: Kadri Gopalnath and Rudresh Mahanthappa

Kadri Gopalnath and Rudresh Mahanthappa, two leading artists from American jazz and Indian classical music, combine their prodigious talents in this one-of-a-kind collaboration. They are backed up by an all-star lineup of guitarist Rez Abbasi, violinist A. Kanyakumari, drummers Royal Hartigan and Poovalur Sriji, and bassist Carlo de Rosa.

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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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Wu Man and Shanghai Quartet

Shanghai Quartet with Wu Man, pipa

Two-time Grammy nominee Wu Man performs on pipa (Chinese lute) with the Shanghai Quartet for Red Lantern by Zhao Jiping and Zhao Lin, based on the soundtrack to Zhang Yimou’s Oscar-nominated film Raise the Red Lantern.  She and the quartet also perform Tan Dun’s seminal work, Ghost Opera. Completing the program are two pieces for the quartet: Yi-wen Jiang’s ChinaSong and Song of the Ch’in, by Grammy nominee Zhou Long.

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Woman in white jumpsuit sings on theater stage while surrounded by seven seated musicians.

Syrian vocalist Nadia Raies performed songs from the 1942 film Mamnu’ Al Hubb (Love is Forbidden), the 1958 film Ma Lish Gheirak (I Have No One but You), and the 1959 film Irham Hubbi (Have Mercy for My Love) with the Simon Shaheen Ensemble.

Musical Gems of Arab Cinema

Enjoy classic film music from the golden age of Arab cinema, the 1930s to the 1960s. Simon Shaheenperforms on the ‘ud (Arab lute) and violin with Syrian vocalist Nadia Raies, ney (flute) master Bassam Saba, and an ensemble of qanun (Arab zither), violins, cello, and percussion. Recorded live in concert at the Freer|Sackler on June 21, 2018.

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