Episodes:

Iraqi Jazz Fusions: Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers

Iraqi-American jazz artist Amir ElSaffar leads this cross-cultural quintet in a live concert rendition of Two Rivers, an original multi-movement work inspired by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the current strife in Iraq, and the common ground between American jazz and Iraqi classical music. ElSaffar sets the modes of Arab music to innovative grooves, free ensemble playing, and multilayered sound textures, resulting in a work that the BBC praises as “harrowing to absorb, full of as much beauty as pain.” He performs on trumpet, santur, and vocals, along with Rudresh Mahanthappa, saxophone; Nasheet Waits, drums; Carlo De Rosa, bass; and Jason Adasiewicz, vibraphone. This concert was made possible, in part, with support from the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, and was recorded in concert in the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium on February 7, 2009.

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A Korean and American Jazz Excursion: Five Directions

Six boundary-breaking musicians from Korea and the United States join forces for this cross-cultural jazz collaboration evoking the origins of the universe, the cosmic balance of yin and yang, and the five elements of creation. Three leading lights of the New York improv scene–Ned Rothenberg (clarinet, saxophone, and shakuhachi), Erik Friedlander (cello), and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion)–are joined by three Korean musicians–Yoon Jeong Heo (geomungo/zither), Kwon Soon Kang (vocal), and Young Chi Min (daegum/flute and janggo/drum) –for this unique experiment that blends free jazz and traditional Korean music.

This concert took place in the Freer Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium on December 9, 2008.

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Between Tides: Chamber Music from Japan

An international quartet of musicians combines Western and Japanese instruments to perform music written during the course of the twentieth-century, from Kosaku Yamada’s “Seven Poems” (1914) to Toru Takemitsu’s “Between Tides” (1993). Masayo Ishigure has performed on koto at Lincoln Center and on John Williams’s soundtrack for the feature film “Memoirs of a Geisha.” James Wilson was a long-time cellist with the Shanghai Quartet. Pianist Kathryn Woodard served as a consultant to Yo-Yo Ma’s “Silk Road Project.” Violinist Theresa Salomon completes this outstanding ensemble.

This concert was presented on October 2, 2008, as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series, supported by the New York Community Trust–The Island Fund and numerous additional donors.

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Premiere Works: Music From China Ensemble

Enjoy prize-winning compositions in Music From China’s International Composers Competition for new music with Chinese and Western instruments, as well as works by Grammy Award-winners Zhou Long and Chen Yi. The Music from China Ensemble features exceptional artists on erhu (fiddle), zheng (zither), sheng (mouth organ), and other Chinese instruments, complemented by cello, flute, and percussion. The Kansas City Star called the Music From China ensemble “music from heaven” and “exceptionally rewarding.”

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Tan Dun’s Map Project and China’s Endangered Music

Internationally acclaimed composer/conductor Tan Dun, whose many accomplishments include an Academy Award for his score to the hit film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” leads this discussion/demonstration exploring the vanishing musical cultures of ethnic minorities in western Hunan. His discusses his most recent creation, The Map, which combines a stone-drumming ensemble, cello soloist, the Shanghai Symphony, and video of traditional dance. The talk follows the American premiere of the work at the Kennedy Center on October 17, 2005. A co-presentation with the Kennedy Center’s Performance Plus program. Recorded live at the Freer Gallery October 18, 2005. (46:41).

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Contemporary Music for Japanese Instruments: Sawai Koto Ensemble

Hear the exhilarating music of the late Japanese composer Tadao Sawai and his son Hikaru Sawai, performed by this twenty-piece ensemble of traditional Japanese instruments. Kazue Sawai’s ensemble features traditional koto, bass koto, shamisen (lute), and shakuhachi (flute). They have collaborated with such composers as John Zorn, John Cage, and Sofia Gubaidulina, and appeared at Lincoln Center and the Bang on a Can Festival in New York. This performance took place in the Freer Gallerys Meyer Auditorium on May 4, 2001, and was co-sponsored by the Embassy of Japan. Recorded on March 4, 2001.

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A leading performer on the Chinese pipa, Wu Man has appeared at major venues around the world, in solo recitals, and with leading ensembles, such as the Kronos Quartet and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. She was named 2013 Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America, making her the first traditional musician ever to receive the award.

Master of the Chinese Pipa: Wu Man

A Grammy Award nominee and the first traditional artist to be named Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America, Wu Man is widely considered the premiere soloist on the pipa, an ancient Chinese lute. Enjoy her virtuosic renditions of classical pieces meant to evoke Chinese sunsets, Buddhist chanting, and an ancient battle. This 1999 concert at the Freer Gallery concludes with a contemporary work written for her by composer Bung-Ching Lam.

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The changing of the seasons is represented in the last piece on the recording, Minoru Miki’s Hanayagi (The Greening). According to the composer, his music “sings in praise of the brilliant life-power of the seasons as they slowly shift from spring to early summer.” The Japanese screen above, from the Edo period (1615–1868), is meant to be read from right to left, as the flowers transition from spring to summer blossoms, a technique frequently employed in Japanese screen paintings to depict multiple seasons in a single narrative image. Flowers and a Brook. Japan, Edo period (1615–1868). Six-panel screen; color over gold on paper. Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1897.27-28

Reiko Kimura: Traditional and Contemporary Music for Japanese Koto

Three centuries of music for Japanese koto are performed by virtuoso Reiko Kimura in this concert, recorded at the Freer Gallery on January 15, 1998. Compositions range from the exquisitely delicate to the rambunctiously adventuresome, and feature both the traditional thirteen-string koto and the contemporary twenty-string koto. This concert was presented in cooperation with Music From Japan, Inc. (New York) as part of the Music From Japan Festival 1998. Four years earlier, Kimura joined the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as guest koto player for the premiere of Minoru Miki’s Symphony of Two Worlds at Lincoln Center.

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