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Exquisite Harmony Under Her Baton

Shen Yun conductor blends Western with Chinese instruments

By Xia Mozhu
Epoch Times Staff
Created: August 16, 2011 Last Updated: April 10, 2012
Related articles: Arts & Entertainment » Music
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MELBOURNE, Australia—At the conclusion of the New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts company’s performances in Melbourne, Australia, conductor Ms. Chia-Chi Lin shared her success regarding blending performances by Chinese and Western musical instruments in her orchestra.

“I received training in Western musical instruments when I was little,” Ms. Lin said in an exclusive interview with The Epoch Times. “The Shen Yun Orchestra is a combination of Chinese and Western instruments. It has classical Western instruments such as brass, woodwind, and other orchestra instruments, as well as classical Chinese instruments such as erhu, 4-stringed Chinese lute (pipa), bamboo flute, suona horn, gong, wooden knocker, Chinese drums, and the like.

“Western instruments are well-structured and produce a rich and deep sound, while the instruments in the East are more capable of carrying profound meanings. Like with singing, they are more fluidic. Eastern instruments are truly capable of expressing one’s innermost feelings,” Ms. Lin said.

Ms. Lin made a comparison between the violin and the erhu: “The violin is known for its colorful and bright melody, so it sounds quite pleasant to the ear, but in portraying one’s deep emotions, it is not as expressive as the erhu. When combined in an orchestra such as ours, they produce the best results.”

How Chinese and Western Instruments Are Combined

Ms. Chia-Chi Lin is one of the conductors of the Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company Orchestra. (Dai Bing/The Epoch Times)

Ms. Chia-Chi Lin is one of the conductors of the Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company Orchestra. (Dai Bing/The Epoch Times)

The Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company Orchestra has managed to keep the essence of both Chinese and Western music. It consists mainly of Western orchestral instruments accompanied by some Chinese ones, giving full play to Western music’s potential with a Chinese flavor.

The music performed by the orchestra mainly embodies styles from multi-Chinese ethnic groups, while the methods used in playing Western instruments are influenced by the approach used in handling the Chinese ones.

The sounds coming from the orchestral instruments are deep, vigorous, and rich in layers. In orchestration, Western instruments fulfill a nice melody and accompaniment and often show their strengths at the climax.

The Shen Yun Orchestra makes full use of Western music’s harmony as well as its rich and magnificent momentum, which are lacking in Chinese music where instruments are mainly played individually, rather than in an orchestra.

In other words, the Shen Yun Orchestra has the advantage of possessing Western instruments’ power and the unique elegance from traditional Chinese instruments, such as the erhu, pipa, bamboo flute, and suona horn, on the one hand, and the Chinese percussion instruments, such as the gong and cymbal, on the other hand.

The original music played by the Shen Yun Orchestra resonates with a beauty that is hard to describe in words—shaking and serene at the same time.

The Chinese instruments impart China’s rich and genuine national music. They usually lead the whole orchestra or even go solo from time to time, accentuated by Western instruments. Audience members from around the world have marveled at the exquisite combination.

Ms. Lin told The Epoch Times: “When the dance story requires a grand style, we will accord a lot of emphasis on Western instruments. If there’s a need to depict Oriental sentiments or scenes, we will use Chinese instruments such as erhu, bamboo flute, and pipa, which best express deeper emotions.

“For example, in our program this year, we have a piece called No Regrets. In it, the mother places on her back her son who’s been persecuted to death. A violin is not nearly as effective as an erhu in expressing the agony and sorrow of a mother who just lost her son. With the sound of the erhu, audiences immediately feel that sadness and dreariness. So with the combination of Chinese and Western instruments, our orchestra can uniquely express a full range of emotions and does it well. ”

PERFECT BLENDING: The Shen Yun Orchestra plays to the rhythm of the story and dancing on stage and does not focus exclusively on its own performance. The image shows the final scene in this year's Jan. 7 performance at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. (Larry Dai/The Epoch Times)

PERFECT BLENDING: The Shen Yun Orchestra plays to the rhythm of the story and dancing on stage and does not focus exclusively on its own performance. The image shows the final scene in this year's Jan. 7 performance at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. (Larry Dai/The Epoch Times)

 

Fully Focused

“Shen Yun performances are a perfect blending of the orchestra, stage, backdrop, and lighting,” Ms. Lin said. “The Shen Yun Orchestra plays to the pace and rhythm of the story and dancing on stage and does not focus exclusively on its own performance,” she added.

The original music played by the Shen Yun Orchestra resonates with a beauty that is hard to describe in words—shaking and serene at the same time. Its exquisiteness comes from an elevation of realms rather than skills. Instead of showing off their skills, the musicians are dedicated to seeking the portrayal of far-reaching artistic concepts and classical charms.

Ms. Lin said that she always felt different each time she watched Shen Yun as she was conducting the orchestra, and she never fails to get inspired. She said, “While I was conducting, I thought of nothing else but melting into the music, feeling what the dancers were feeling. Shen Yun performances are not just another performance.

“I have different feelings with each performance, and my understanding deepens. So, I think, watching it just once is not enough. When you see it several times, you will feel the meaning behind it.”

Ms. Lin said that as a conductor, she could not plan ahead, because emotions were spontaneous. “When you try to feel the rhythm of the dancers, listen to music, and conduct the orchestra without distractions, you cannot plan ahead as what to do. That’s because emotions just flow out spontaneously,” Ms. Lin said.

Read the original Chinese article.




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