Gigs, dance, art

May 14th, 2011: Wu Man


What can I say? Wu Man is amazing. She’d be on her own, but she played with musicians from Central Asia and that was even better. I think I had seen them before, but I’m not sure so I won’t wander and guess their names. The point is they all played in good faith and there was a magical moment where borders faded into irrelevance. Wu Man played a few songs solo, and these were great, then there was some Central Asian music where I was just sure I’d heard these guys before, they were so skilled yet that was nothing compared to when they played with Wu Man. Then it wasn’t about skill, they all had that. More about what each could bring to the table. It wasn’t always obvious, most of the time it was either Wu Man or the others, but when they played together at last that was a release and something special. I brought together worlds than had been kept separate for no reason.

It’s certainly not what I like best about Chinese music, and I like Kyrgyz music much better, but it made a lot of sense to bring these together. Wu Man definitely knows what she’s doing, and even though I don’t really like that side of the Chinese music tradition, she made her point that it belongs to it. And it’s such a rare thing that she could play with these guys like it was obvious they all belonged together. That’s how good she is, and that performance was something special just for all the untold things she made obvious. It’s all more than what just went on, and she conveyed as much by not playing at times. I’m still figuring out.


June 13, 2011 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

November 24th, 2007: Wu Man


I was pleased and surprised to be able to get a ticket for this, but it turned out not to be sold out, which makes little sense to me. I only noticed recently that Wu Man played on Bang on a can’s recording of In C — a record with a FMU connection with Irene Trudel being involved. I had not even noticed the pipa at all. I had seen her play with Kronos though, and her having lived in Boston gave yet another connection to my interests. Seriously, I love the pipa. I really like its distinctive sound, and I think this instrument just looks great as well. I don’t get the chance very often, so this was too good to pass up.

The performance was really brilliant, and balanced as well. The first hour featured six solo pieces, both traditional songs and recent compositions. The latter were obviously using more of the range of the instrument, but even the simple songs were really good. Wu Man is quite simply an amazing musician. Her technique is flawless without sounding too technical.

Then Robert Schulz joined her on stage, first for a short solo piece on bongos, which was a nice change of pace. He’s definitely no dummy either. A real nice touch was that they then ended the set with a performance of Steve Reich’s Clapping Music, which I’m quite partial to, a deceptively simple process which he had the good idea to explain beforehand.

After a short break, both of them came back for a longer work for pipa and percussions composed by Chen Yi, with a simple video in the background that was pretty nice, with a lot of ink drawings and Chinese characters. Calligraphy can be great when it’s done well, though I guess not understanding what is written probably means I’m missing part of it. The music was interesting as well, though I had a hard time hearing the pipa at times; the percussions were drowning it out for short spells. But most of the time they were quieter and combined very well with the pipa.

November 25, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment