Martha Ann Brooks

A New Music of the Orient: a Touch of the West and a Dash of the Divine

A new musical blend has occurred in New York City and it’s not the kind you can catch for ten dollars at a club in the West Village. For the many countless Chinese immigrants attempting to survive in a brand-new world and for those westerners who have actually constantly wished to comprehend the Chinese however have actually shied away for lack of a method in– for any individual who has questioned where the two civilizations connect, the response could lie not in words, but in music.

Lisa Li is a master of the pipa (Chinese lute) and a graduate of the Chinese Conservatory of China. She has actually composed and carried out across Europe, Asia and the United States, and her playing was showcased in the Academy Acclaimed film The Last Emperor. Now, as one of the lead composers for New Tang Dynasty TV’s Chinese New Year Incredible, a grand scale performance of conventional Chinese dance and tune, Lisa has actually created what she thinks to be a brand-new kind of sound– based on ancient Chinese folk and religious music, however exceeding either of them.

“Music is alive, due to the fact that in the view of the Chinese ancients, every things on the planet has life. In Chinese, when we refer to a musical note we call it a ‘live note,'” she describes. However according to Lisa, it has to be made up and played from the heart– sometimes in methods that sound foreign to the western ear.

The melodies are far from random. Lisa’s music, like all typically composed Chinese music, is based upon a series of pentatonic (5-note) scales. This system has its roots in Taoism, which teaches that all matter is formed from the 5 basic aspects of metal, earth, wood, fire, and water. It teaches that in order for a being to be healthy, it has to have all these elements in balance. From the Chinese point of view, a tune or piece of music should also include an uniquely crafted balance of these elements. There are also 8 note scales that connect to the Taoist symbol called the bagua, which is most frequently understood in the West as part of the practice of fengshui, or geomancy.

An example of this is the piece she composed for the dance “A Dunhuang Dream.” The dance is set versus a background of countless caves sculpted into the sides of high cliffs as they are in the Moago Grottoes in the Dunhuang area of China. Seated at the mouth of each cave is a Buddhist or Taoist divine being. As the dancers arise, one can hear from the orchestra pit the voices of the erhu (Chinese violin) and guzhen (zither), but these are quickly joined by the more recognizable resonance of cello, bass, oboe, and brass. The outcome strikes the ear as achingly otherworldly and yet also solidly familiar.

The specific ya yue utilized in the rating is the same as that found in the old pipa music composed on scrolls that were discovered by archeologists in the actual Dunhuang caves years back.

“I feel really deeply that music is a heavenly language, a magnificent language,” Lisa says. “It is able to uplift people’s hearts and minds. It benefits the soul.”.