| The Martial Arts Trilogy, Tan Dun |
photo Kevin Yatarola
In this concert, the music was performed in front of a screen showing excerpts from the films blended with live camera close-ups of the soloists and Tan Dun as conductor, forming a unique visual backdrop for the orchestra. In cinema, sound generally supports the action and is often considered a subsidiary element, but in the Martial Arts Trilogy concert the visual material supports the musical performance, giving visual embodiment to the drama within the music. There’s a moment where a shot from the film of a guqin being played coincides with a sublime guqin solo. And there are many slow-motion martial arts scenes, with warriors flying magically through the air, that create a ballet to the music, as if choreographed to the musical line.
|The Martial Arts Trilogy, Tan Dun|
photo Kevin Yatarola
Tan Dun has refreshed the traditional violin/piano/cello concerto concept by melding it with cinematic material and multimedia presentation, and bringing it to a significantly wider audience by allying it with cinema. The Martial Arts Trilogy concert embodies a significant artistic development, where film, live video and live music merge into a distinct form.
courtesy OzAsia Festival
Sandy Evans’ Indian Project has established a highly individual and powerful musical form, its mix of styles fitting well into the OzAsia Festival context. Legendary Australian jazz saxophonist Evans has been exploring Indian musical traditions for many years, and one of her teachers, Sri Lankan sitarist and singer Sarangan Sriranganathan, performs with her in this ensemble. Evans and Sriranganathan create an hypnotic fusion blending western jazz with Carnatic and Hindustani music, to which the expressive, mellifluous sax, paired with the sitar, is ideally suited.
The concert featured Evans’ Seven Stories of Dreams, a performance involving a degree of improvisation. The composer states in the program note that when she composes for improvisers, her main inspiration comes from the musicians she is writing for. This hybrid music’s character and strength lie in the hands of the musicians as they perform, their traditional material transforming itself and evolving as they play. It requires musicians who have mastered their respective genres to the point where they can adapt them spontaneously. One performer develops a melodic line and then the others respond to it, resulting in a delightful musical conversation. When two follow the same melodic line simultaneously, wonderful timbral effects are created. Seductive, swaying rhythms flow through every piece. This is music of much thought, development and rehearsal, highly refined and superbly delivered.
In the Crouching Tigers concert, an ensemble of members from the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra joined Xiaoxia Zhao to present new short works by five emerging Australian composers invited to write pieces exploring cross-cultural composition. Each composer was asked to include the guqin in the ensemble, and the resulting compositions were workshopped with Tan Dun. The composers variously explored the guqin’s unique sonic properties and character, developing all kinds of effects when allied with violin, cello, clarinet, trumpet, bassoon and percussion. The work that made the most eloquent use of the guqin was Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh’s beautiful Threading Through Fumes, in which the guqin and the string and wind instruments’ lines intertwine to evoke curling incense smoke trails. Xiaoxia’s hands caress the guqin and, to conclude the work, she drops small pieces of foam rubber onto the strings to create wispy, barely audible sounds. Commissions for such events inspire exciting developments. This music was more cerebral than spiritual or visceral, but it cast a very special spell.
There is the question as to whether the re-invention of traditional music through hybridisation dilutes or undermines the strength of those traditions. But the process of hybridisation is itself well established and no culture can remain static for long. The OzAsia Festival’s musical programming demonstrates how cultural interaction can stimulate rapid musical evolution while honouring the music’s cultural lineage.
Adelaide Festival Centre, Ozasia 2012: Martial Arts Trilogy, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conductor Tan Dun, violin Natsuko Yoshimoto, guqing Xiaoxia Zhao, cello Li-Wei, piano Jiayi Sun, Festival Theatre, Sept 23; Kailash Kher and Kailasa, Festival Theatre, Sept 29; Sandy Evans’ Indian Project, saxophones Sandy Evans, sitar and vocals Sarangan Sriranganathan, double bass Brett Hirst, tabla Maharshi Ravai, Space Theatre, Sept 22; Crouching Tigers, composers Tristan Coelho, Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, Christopher Larkin, Lachlan Skipworth, Timothy Tate, guqin Xiaoxia Zhao with members of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Space Theatre, Adelaide, Sept 23; http://www.ozasiafestival.com.au/
This article fist appeared as part of RT's online e-dition Nov 6
RealTime issue #112 Dec-Jan 2012 pg. 38
© Chris Reid; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org