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The sound of global connections

Updated: 2024-05-27 07:35 ( China Daily )
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Griffith participates in the Beijing Garden Expo Park Opera and Music Week during Mid-Autumn Festival, in 2023.CHINA DAILY

The suona, different from many Western instruments, can easily mimic the human voice, making it very expressive. It has a strong emotional impact and powerful expressiveness.

It is still quite new to American musicians and audiences, says Chan. After his performances, he meets many audiences asking questions such as what the instrument is or how it is made.

"Some American musicians would suggest including the suona in ensembles, making it more accessible for collaboration with different instruments," says Chan.

The instrument's unique timbre and strong character make it stand out. For instance, Chan once performed Birds Saluting the Phoenix (Bainiao Chaofeng), where the suona is the main instrument and the musician mimics bird calls throughout the piece.

This artistic expression is easily understood and appreciated by people from various cultural backgrounds because they can instantly recognize the bird sounds. The feature of mimicking animal sounds broke language barriers and created communication and connections among audiences around the world.

Since the 21st century, the development of contemporary Chinese music has been strong, putting it at the forefront of the global music scene, says Cai.

Since the reform and opening-up in the 20th century, many Chinese musicians, composers and performers have studied abroad, absorbing influences from diverse cultures.

"These individuals, much like scientists, aim to create unique works that reflect their cultural identity. As a result, in the 21st century, Chinese composers are undoubtedly among the leading figures in the world of music," Cai says.

Just as Chan's classmates hope to include the suona in their ensembles, the exchange of Eastern and Western music provides new inspiration for each other's musical creations.

"As musicians, we constantly seek new idols and artists because the essence of being an artist lies in the originality of your ideas. The most important measure of art is your unique perspective. The uniqueness of your performance is crucial, and it depends on where your ideas originate and the foundation upon which they are built. This individuality is a key factor in evaluating the development of art," says Cai. "Nothing excites me more than introducing a set of entirely new Chinese works."

The US-China Music Institute at the Bard College Conservatory of Music has held the China Now Music Festival and Chinese New Year Concerts at Lincoln Center in New York City for years.

Beitong Liu, a master's student of musicology at Bard, is an example of the new wave of Chinese musicians in New York. Her work demonstrates how contemporary Chinese musicians establish their cultural identity and engage on the world stage.

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