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Chants of the old

Updated: 2015-10-14 07:40:19

( China Daily )

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Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily

She adds that besides the notes she composes, she also leaves space for the musicians to improvise.

"It means that each musician is given a chance to express himself or herself through improvisation. They have to think independently and show who they are at that moment," she says, adding that Mortensen will join Chinese musicians in the work, Golden Pheasant Out of the Mountains. The work features the ancient Tujia ethnic folk music form, Daliuzi. The music form from Hunan province was recognized in 2006 as part of China's intangible cultural heritage.

She also says that since many types of ancient Chinese music find a mention only in history books she resorts to guesswork and experiments to recreate the sounds.

"It's like a scientist doing experiments in a laboratory. You have to fail many times to taste success. That's what I do when I write music," Liu says.

"Balancing a lot of Chinese percussion with very few Chinese pluck instruments and coming up with the right sound is also a big challenge. The process is hard but it's also very exciting," she says.

Liu still remains cool and sharp. She says that her unconventional music is determined by her life experience and personality.

Born in an intellectual and political family in Beijing, Liu had classical music training as a child. She first got noticed with her award-winning novel, You Have No Choice. It tells the story of a group of frustrated modern music composition students. Her other novels, including Small Tales of the Great Ji Family in 2000 and Female Purity Soup in 2003, have been translated into several languages.

In 1987, she visited the United States, where she met and worked with many jazz and blues musicians, including American bassists Fernando Saunders and Bill Laswell. She later released albums in the US, such as Blues in the East and China Collage, which introduced her rare style to international audiences.

Liu, who has lived in London and New York, says that her collaboration with international artists enables her to be versatile.

Liu, who now, spends most of her time in Beijing, continues to create music and perform with her ensemble.

On Oct 28, Liu will perform in a concert, titled Broken Zither, at the Wuhan Qintai Music Festival, Hubei province. The work was composed by Liu in 1993 and was included in her album Blues in East.

The following for ancient Chinese music may be witnessing a decline but in the eyes of Liu it is contemporary and inspiring.

"I want to give those old spirits a new structure, otherwise they can be only in museums. When you hear my music, you feel excited, not only because of my funky composition, but also because you hear those old spirits come through," she says.

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