Friday, March 23, 2012

Orchid Ensemble...and Other Reflections

Made up of three musicians this ensemble performed East Asian music vocally and on instruments: the erhu (2-string stick fiddle [pictured on left]), zheng (16-25 stringed zither-type instrument [pictured on right]), marimba [center], and various percussion instruments (I liked the Chinese tone blocks and crotales). Their repertoire was folk - both traditional and composed.

This concert reminded me of the Stringalong I attended in Wisconsin where I learned how to play the Japanese koto (also in the zheng family). During those lessons I learned that Japanese music is read from right to left, top-to-bottom. The music was not standard notation, but Japanese characters for the numbers 1-13 - corresponding with the number of strings on the koto. My training as a music teacher was challenged during that class - especially since the teacher felt I should demonstrate for the class. Though I know music I was learning just as the others in the class were. I'm glad I had that experience.

Another memory this concert prompted was a workshop I attended at Indiana University in 2004. This was an amazing workshop. For four days I was immersed into East Asian music - every day was the music of a different country (Japan, China, Korea) taught by experts in the field. I am talking about people who had actually lived and studied in the countries they were talking about.

I did not get to play the koto at this workshop though my professor was extremely curious as to who had taught me for she and only one other person in the US taught the koto. Turns out my other teacher was the one other person. So I've been taught by the best!

I also got to learn about the shamisen (3-string instrument).

I got to play in a Chinese percussion ensemble luogu, which means “gongs and drums” and accompany and perform a lion dance.

I learned how to read Erhu music - written in a system of numbers with dots and lines indicating duration. While I did not play the erhu we did play this music on recorders. Challenging!

This was probably my favorite because I got to watch a Korean drum ensemble then we got to play in smaller drum ensembles. (Sadly, I can't find the pictures of these.)

This is running longer than I'd intended. I have not even touched upon the World Music Jam I attended in 2003 at Morningside College in Sioux City, IA. (The trip I almost got a speeding ticket driving my (then) new car. So glad the trooper was nice. 72mph in a 50mph zone usually does not bode well!) Then there is the Multicultural Symposium in 2008 at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Then there are the state and national music conferences. It goes on...

Suffice it to say my life has been touched by (primarily East) Asian music. I've learned enough to know I love it. I look forward to learning more!

Ok, so this is more about my past experiences, but they are all prompted by the Orchid Ensemble concert.

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