Program Type: 
Performance
YBCA and Kronos Performing Arts Association present
Kronos Quartet & Wu Man: A Chinese Home

Conceived by Wu Man, David Harrington and Chen Shi Zheng

June 03, 2011 - June 04, 2011
YBCA Forum

Overview

YBCA and Kronos Performing Arts Association present
Kronos Quartet and Wu Man: A Chinese Home
Conceived by Wu Man, David Harrington and Chen Shi-Zheng

The evening begins with a production of Tan Dun's Ghost Opera, staged by Laurence Neff, featuring the musicians performing with water bowls, stones and large sheets of paper. The roots of Ghost Opera may be found in the nuoxi, or exorcism plays, of ancient China. The nuoxi were one part of the rituals performed by a village community to ward off evil spirits and gain the protection of benevolent ones. The ceremonies were conducted by a wushi (shaman), able to communicate with the ghost world. At the center of the work are two enigmatic ghosts — one represented by a quotation from Bach's Prelude in C–sharp Minor from the Well-Tempered Clavier and the other by a Chinese folk song Little Cabbage.

The staged production of A Chinese Home follows. The work is structured in four parts, with transitional elements between the sections and a recorded soundscape that will be played in the hall during intermission as a prelude. Starting within the home, visually represented by footage from the historic Yin Yu Tang, the first section of the work evokes the China of the distant past through ceremonial and spiritual music. A variety of folk songs, including music from ethnic minority cultures in China, suggest rural villages. Kronos and Wu Man perform on a variety of instruments, including percussion and traditional Chinese wind instruments. The second part explores the urbanization of China, starting in the 1920s and up to the Communist revolution, through the music and spirit of Shanghai. Folk music transforms into jazz and pop music.

Music is appropriated as a tool for propaganda in Mao's China (1949-1976), and folk tunes are rearranged and converted into revolutionary songs. The sounds of personal life are expanded into the public realm. Finally the sonic landscape is reconstructed through the electronic manipulation of music that leads to a portrait of the contemporary China that has emerged since the 1980s. Folk music is remixed; familiar music is transformed through sampling. A new China that is connected to the old is represented by an electric pipa, designed and built by San Francisco-based MacArthur fellow Walter Kitundu. The public returns to the personal, though transformed by modern life.

About A Chinese Home

Drawing on the metaphors of displacement and migration, the personal and private versus the public and formal, A Chinese Home explores China's evolving identity through a variety of works ranging from folk tunes to electronic music, enhanced with staging and video elements created by acclaimed stage and film director Chen Shi-Zheng, and instruments constructed expressly for this work.

Part I. Return: Yin Yu Tang
The first section of the work evokes the China of the distant past through ceremonial and spiritual music. A variety of folk songs, including music from ethnic minority cultures in China, suggest rural villages. Musical selections are connected with recorded sounds from within a home, assembled as a collage.

Part II. Shanghai
The second part explores the urbanization of China, from the 1920s to the Communist revolution, through the music and spirit of Shanghai. Folk music transforms into jazz and pop music. Music provides
an escape, but also explores the disconnection between the sensuous sounds of film music and the visual reality of war and the Japanese occupation.

Part III. East Is Red
Under Mao, music was appropriated as a tool for propaganda in and folk tunes were rearranged and converted into revolutionary songs. The sounds of personal life expanded into the public realm. The patriotic song "East Is Red" is a continuous thread in part three, linking crowd noise, massed clapping, and the sound of Mao's voice, as the Cultural Revolution is evoked through the brash visual imagery of the time.

Part IV. Made in China
In this final section, a portrait of the contemporary China emerges through a sonic landscape reconstructed by electronic manipulation. Folk music is remixed, familiar music is transformed through sampling and a new China that is connected to the old by an electric pipa as the public returns to the personal, transformed by modern life.

A Chinese Home was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet and Wu Man by Carnegie Hall and the University of Notre Dame's DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. The work was co-commissioned by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland at College Park, with funds from The Leading College and University Presenters Program of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; Florida State University's Seven Days of Opening Nights; Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Stanford Lively Arts, Stanford University. Additional support was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

About Ghost Opera

The conceptual and multifaceted composer/conductor Tan Dun has made an indelible mark on the world's music scene with a creative repertoire that spans the boundaries of classical, multimedia, Eastern and Western musical systems. Central to his body of work are distinct series of works that reflect his individual compositional concepts and personal ideas: among them, a series which brings his childhood memories of shamanistic ritual into symphonic performances; Opera has a significant role in Tan Dun's creative output of the past decade, mostly recently with the premiere of The First Emperor by the Metropolitan Opera in 2006 with a title role created for Plácido Domingo. In 2008 Tan composed Internet Symphony No. 1: "Eroica," commissioned by Google/YouTube as the focal point for the world's first collaborative online orchestra. Of his many works for film, Tan Dun's score for Ang Lee's film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, received an Oscar Award for best original score.

Ghost Opera was developed by Tan Dun through discussions with Kronos Quartet and Wu Man, and the work premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1995. Since then, Ghost Opera has been performed by Kronos and Wu Man more than three dozen times around the world, including a noteworthy performance at the Beijing Concert Hall in 1996.

The roots of Ghost Opera may be found in the nuoxi, or exorcism plays, of ancient China. The nuoxi were one part of the rituals performed by a village community to ward off evil spirits and gain the protection of benevolent ones. The ceremonies were conducted by a wushi (shaman), able to communicate with the ghost world. The shamanistic dialogue with the spirit world is made palpable by means of an old Chinese theatrical tradition: the yingxi, or shadow puppet play.

At the center of the work are two enigmatic ghosts — one represented by a quotation from Bach's Prelude in C–sharp Minor from the Well-Tempered Clavier and the other by a Chinese folk song Little Cabbage. The two pieces present a study in contrasts and yet in the vaporous mists of Ghost Opera, these distinctions seem not to matter. In the third movement the two songs merge, blended into an androgynous phantasm that is neither clearly one nor the other. Then, suddenly, with a crash of the gong, the ghosts are banished. Their voices fade into silence beneath the rustle of paper. White as death, the paper unfurls from the shadow-spirit world into our own. Singing for the dead, Wu Man rattles the left edge of the scroll, the portion of the painting where the journey ends and the world dissolves.

Ghost Opera was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet and Wu Man by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, National Endowment for the Arts and Hancher Auditorium/University of Iowa. Kronos and Wu Man's recording of Ghost Opera is available on Nonesuch.

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Events

  • Kronos Quartet and Wu Man: A Chinese Home
    June 2, 2011 – June 3, 2011
    8:00 pm
    YBCA Forum
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Curator Statement

Kronos/YBCA Collaboration

The Kronos Quartet and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts are pleased to announce a multi-year partnership which begins during the 2010/11 season. YBCA will be Kronos' exclusive San Francisco home for concerts and experimentation for three seasons. Kronos and YBCA will co-produce performances and will co–commission at least three new works during the residency.

"The Kronos Quartet is one of the world's leading string quartets, pushing the boundaries of contemporary music and constantly reinventing themselves through their explorations with artistic partners. YBCA is thrilled to celebrate this new venture with the Kronos Quartet — an organization that shares our vision and commitment to innovation — which is sure to delight music fans with new works and experimentations for several years to come."

— Kenneth J. Foster, Executive Director of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

"Kronos is thrilled to begin a three year partnership with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. There has never been a time in the last 37 years when I have felt as energized, as passionate and as committed to the music of the future as I do right now. We are inspired by the Center's programs and artistic vision, and we feel a great synergy in our mutual commitment to the creation and performance of new work. We are excited by the opportunity to deepen our relationship with YBCA and its audiences. Kronos has always loved performing at YBCA, and we look forward to planning very special programs and performances in our home town."

— David Harrington, Artistic Director, Kronos Quartet

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Artist Bio

For more than 30 years, the Kronos Quartet — David Harrington, John Sherba (violins), Hank Dutt (viola) and Jeffrey Zeigler (cello) — has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to expanding the range and context of the string quartet. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 45 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world's most eclectic composers and performers, and commissioning more than 700 works and arrangements for string quartet. In addition to the Polar Music Prize and the Avery Fisher Prize, the quartet's numerous awards also include a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance (2004) and "Musicians of the Year" (2003) from Musical America.

Integral to Kronos' work is a series of long-running, in-depth collaborations with many of the world's foremost composers, including Terry Riley, whose work with Kronos includes Salome Dances for Peace, the multimedia production Sun Rings, and 2005's The Cusp of Magic; Philip Glass, including recording his complete string quartets and scores to films like Mishima; Azerbaijan's Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, featured on the 2005 release Mugam Sayagi: Music of Franghiz Ali-Zadeh; Steve Reich, whose Kronos-recorded Different Trains earned a Grammy Award; Argentina's Osvaldo Golijov, whose work with Kronos includes both compositions and extensive arrangements; and many more.

In addition to composers, Kronos counts numerous artists from around the world among its collaborators, including the Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man; legendary Bollywood "playback singer" Asha Bhosle, featured on Kronos' Grammy-nominated CD, You've Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman's Bollywood; Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq; Mexican rockers Café Tacuba; genre defying sound artist and instrument builder Walter Kitundu; the Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks; renowned American soprano Dawn Upshaw; and the unbridled British cabaret trio, the Tiger Lillies.

Kronos has performed live with the likes of icons Allen Ginsberg, Zakir Hussain, Modern Jazz Quartet, Noam Chomsky, Tom Waits, David Barsamian, Howard Zinn, Betty Carter, and David Bowie, and has appeared on recordings by such diverse talents as Nine Inch Nails, Amon Tobin, Dan Zanes, DJ Spooky, Dave Matthews, Nelly Furtado, Rokia Traoré, Joan Armatrading and Don Walser. Kronos' music has also featured prominently in other media, including film (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, 21 Grams, Heat, True Stories) and dance, with noted choreographers such as Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, and Eiko & Koma setting pieces to Kronos' music.

The Quartet spends five months of each year on tour, appearing in concert halls, clubs, and festivals around the world including BAM Next Wave Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Barbican in London, WOMAD, UCLA's Royce Hall, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Shanghai Concert Hall and the Sydney Opera House. Kronos is equally prolific and wide-ranging on disc. The ensemble's expansive discography on Nonesuch Records includes collections like Pieces of Africa (1992), a showcase of African-born composers, which simultaneously topped Billboard's Classical and World Music lists; 1998's ten-disc anthology, Kronos Quartet: 25 Years; Nuevo (2002), a Grammy- and Latin Grammy-nominated celebration of Mexican culture; and the 2003 Grammy-winner, Alban Berg's Lyric Suite. The group's latest releases are Floodplain (2009), spotlighting music from regions of the world riven by conflict; Rainbow (Smithsonian Folkways, 2010), in collaboration with musicians from Afghanistan and Azerbaijan; and Uniko (Ondine, 2011) with Finnish accordion/sampler duo Kimmo Pohjonen and Samuli Kosminen.

Kronos' recording and performances reveal only a fraction of the group's commitment to new music. As a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, the Kronos Performing Arts Association has commissioned hundreds of new works and arrangements for string quartet. The quartet is committed to mentoring emerging professional performers, and in 2007 Kronos led its first Professional Training Workshop with four string quartets as part of the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall. Subsequent workshops at Carnegie Hall and other venues have expanded this aspect of the quartet's work. By cultivating creative relationships with such emerging talents and a wealth of other artists from around the world, Kronos reaps the benefit of 30 years' wisdom while maintaining a fresh approach to music-making inspired by a new generation of composers and performers.

For more information, visit http://kronosquartet.org.

Wu Man
Since moving to the United States from China in 1990, pipa virtuoso Wu Man has not only introduced the traditional Chinese instrument and its repertoire to Western audiences, she has successfully worked to give this ancient instrument a new role in today's music, making the pipa available to a larger audience and seeing it valued by musicians and composers for its unique tonal qualities and virtuosic character. These efforts were recognized when she was made a 2008 United States Artists Broad Fellow.

Cited by the Los Angeles Times as "the artist most responsible for bringing the pipa to the Western World" Wu Man continually collaborates with some of the most distinguished musicians and conductors performing today. She has performed as soloist with many of the world's major orchestras and her touring has taken her to the major music halls of the world. Wu Man often performs and records with the groundbreaking Kronos Quartet, and is a principal member of Yo–Yo Ma's Silk Road Project.

Wu Man began her 2009–10 concert season with two concerts at Carnegie Hall as part of the "Ancient Paths, Modern Voices" festival celebrating Chinese culture. Her travels in China to find the musicians to perform on these concerts have been documented in a film, Discovering a Musical Heartland — Wu Man's Return to China.

In November Wu Man and the Kronos Quartet presented the world premiere of a new staged work with video, A Chinese Home, directed by Chen Shi–Zheng. In May 2010 Wu Man performed in Moscow with Yuri Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists, with whom she was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2009 for Best Small Ensemble Performance for the world–premiere recording of Tan Dun's Pipa Concerto. She also toured Europe and Asia with the Silk Road Ensemble and performed as soloist in Taipei in November with the Taipei Chinese Traditional Orchestra.

Recent recordings include: Terry Riley's The Cusp of Magic with the Kronos Quartet on Nonesuch; Traditions and Transformations: Sounds of Silk Road Chicago that features Wu Man's performance of Lou Harrison's Pipa Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on the CSO Resound label; and New Impossibilities with the Silk Road Ensemble on Sony/BMG. In 2009 Wu Man was nominated for two Grammy Awards.

Born in Hangzhou, China, Wu Man studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where she became the first recipient of a master's degree in pipa. Wu Man was selected as a Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard University, and was selected by Yo–Yo Ma as the winner of the City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protégé Prize in music and communication. She is also the first artist from China to have performed at the White House.
http://www.wumanpipa.org

Chen Shi–Zheng
Chen Shi-Zheng is a China–born, New York–based director, internationally renowned for his innovative and provocative staging of operas as diverse as Monteverdi's Orfeo, Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, and Tang Xianxu's The Peony Pavilion. He recently conceived, wrote and directed a stage production of Monkey: Journey to the West, executed in collaboration with creators of the virtual rock band Gorillaz. Mr. Chen made his film directorial debut with Dark Matter, starring Meryl Streep and Liu Ye and winning Sundance Film Festival's Alfred P. Sloan Award.

As a child growing up without parents during the Cultural Revolution in Changsha, Hunan Province, he was taken under the wing of traditional funeral singers, who were among some of the great out-of-work masters of Chinese opera. He later became a leading young opera actor, performing until his mid–20s in many productions throughout China, simultaneously recording albums of folksongs and contemporary pop music. He emigrated to the United States in 1987, and has since developed his own artistic expression transcending the boundaries between East and West as well as between music, theatre, dance and film. In 2000, Mr. Chen was awarded the title Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.

In 1999, his landmark 19-hour production of The Peony Pavilion was hailed as one of the most important theatrical events our time. The Peony Pavilion premiered as the centerpiece of Lincoln Center Festival in New York and at Festival d'Automne in Paris, and toured to Piccolo Teatro in Milan, Perth International Arts Festival, Aarhus Festival in Denmark, Berlin Festival, Vienna Festival and at the Esplanade Centre in Singapore. It has been filmed for home video distribution by RM Associates.

A selection of Chen's other directing credits includes Mercury Light World (Berlin Festival); My Life as a Fairy Tale (Lincoln Center Festival, New York, and Aarhus Festival, Denmark); a trilogy of contemporary theater works based on Chinese classics — Orphan of Zhao in two versions (Lincoln Center Theater & Lincoln Center Festival), Snow in June (American Repertory Theatre), and Peach Blossom Fan (RedCat); Dido and Aeneas in two versions (Handel & Haydn Society, Spoleto Festival USA); The Flying Dutchman (Spoleto Festival USA); Night Banquet (co–commissioned by Festival d'Automne á Paris, Kunstenfestival des Arts Brussels, Hebbel — Theater Berlin, Ensemble Modern Frankfurt, and Lincoln Center Festival); the documentary film Cultural Warriors of the Revolution (TV France 3); Cosi fan tutte (Aix–en Provence Festival and Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris); and Alley (New Zealand Festival of the Arts). He made his directorial debut in 1996 with The Bacchae (China National Beijing Opera Company, Hong Kong International Arts Festival and Athens Festival).

He invented a new genre called circus opera with Monkey: Journey to the West, which premiered at Manchester International Festival and Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris in 2007. It toured to Spoleto Festival USA, on to Covent Garden, London last summer, and has completed an extended run at the O2 Theatre in London this winter. He also premiered The Coronation of Poppea for English National Opera in fall 2007 as part of a complete Monteverdi cycle that he began with Vespers of 1610 and continued with Orfeo (nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production, 2006). During the season 2008/09, he directed the world premiere of The Bonesetter's Daughter at San Francisco Opera and La Traviata at Lithuanian National Opera in Vilnius.

YBCA's programs are made possible in part by:
The San Francisco Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Koret Foundation
Adobe Foundation Fund
Novellus

YBCA Performance 10–11 is made possible in part by:
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Additional Funding for YBCA Performance 10–11:
Zellerbach Family Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts