The real essence of [interdisciplinary] collaboration is actually about humility, about acknowledging that other people know things that you don’t know. You have to lay yourself open to trusting others. David Lang
Photos, left to right: David Lang. Photo: Peter Serling Min Xiaofen, Jon Jang, Frank J. Oteri, Ken Smith, Zhou Long. Joe Melillo, Executive Producer, Brooklyn Academy of Music
[NEW FRONTIERS IN MUSIC]
[NEW FRONTIERS IN MUSIC]
INTERDISCIPLINARY ART: NEW DIRECTIONS CHINESE CURRENTS IN CONTEMPORARY MUSIC WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2004
COMPOSERS’ VOICES: CROSSING DISCIPLINES AND CULTURES FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2005
PMP hosted a full-day symposium at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia to address significant streams of innovation within the current professional music ﬁeld. The symposium consisted of two panel discussions, Interdisciplinary Art: New Directions, and Chinese Currents in Contemporary Music, with a break for a catered lunch. The symposium was attended by approximately sixty individuals, including a class of composition students from the University of the Arts. Both discussions were moderated by Frank J. Oteri, composer and Editor of the American Music Center’s web magazine NewMusicBox , and were accompanied by audio-visual samples of the panelists’ work. The morning panel presented nationally prominent panelists with wide-ranging expertise in interdisciplinary art, encompassing composition, direction, production, and management: David Lang, composer and Co-artistic Director of Bang on a Can; Miya Masaoka, composer, koto player, and performance artist; Bob McGrath, Director, Ridge Theater; Joe Melillo, Executive Producer, Brooklyn Academy of Music; and Alisa Regas, Associate Director, Pomegranate Arts. A number of the panelists described their drive to pursue the kind of work that interested
them, despite critical and ﬁnancial risks often posed by large-scale interdisciplinary projects. Mr. Lang spoke speciﬁcally about problem-solving as a prominent aspect of such collaborative work. The afternoon panel included Jon Jang, composer, pianist, and Artistic Director of the Pan Asian Arkestra; Zhou Long, composer and Music Director of Music from China; Ken Smith, music journalist for Gramophone and the Financial Times; and Min Xiaofen, pipa player and vocalist, as well as a Sony, Verve, and Avant recording artist. This discussion explored the inﬂuence that Chinese and Chinese-American composers have had on Western composition, as well as how the panelists themselves had found unique blends and marriages of Eastern and Western soundscapes. Mr. Jang spoke about how the history of Asians in San Francisco came to shape projects of his, and Ms. Xiaofen gave a striking, impromptu vocal performance of a song she’d woven together from a Chinese folk song and a jazz standard.
PMP’s second panel discussion in the New Fronties in Music series, Composers’ Voices: Crossing Disciplines and Cultures, brought together ﬁve signiﬁcant composers known for their innovative, boundary-blurring projects. Moderated by Frank J. Oteri, composer and Editor of the American Music Center’s web magazine NewMusicBox, the event featured Robert Ashley, Fred Ho, Tania León, Mikel Rouse, and Bright Sheng. Each panelist was able to take a substantial portion of time to present audio-visual samples of their work, from Ashley’s 1980s opera for television, Perfect Lives (he described a future marriage between the two as “the most natural thing there is”), to Sheng’s mythological Silver River, a music theater work performed by an actress, a Chinese opera singer, a Western baritone, dancers and instrumentalists, including a pipa player. León shared a section of her cross-cultural percussion piece, Drummin’, and Ho presented his comic-book inspired “martial arts ballet” epic, Journey Beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey. Rouse acknowledged that Ashley’s work, including Perfect Lives, had been a direct inﬂuence on his own composition and offered video from Dennis Cleveland, perhaps the ﬁrst and only talk show opera. These extraordinarily inventive composers spoke freely about their aims and visions, often returning to the matter of place, the myth of America. Things heated up during the question and answer session over matters of fighting and dancing, but the group settled down again for a nice lunch in the Bok Room.
I’m trying to create a living comic book. I deal with fantasy, action, adventure and mythic stories. And I’m not afraid of dealing with conﬂict, assassins and warfare. Fred Ho
Photo: Frank J. Oteri, Bright Sheng, Mikel Rouse, Tania León, Robert Ashley, Fred Ho
I’ve been propagandizing for opera for TV for the past twenty years. Musically, I’m mainly interested in trying to ﬁnd some new way to put American language to music, which has been called everything from ‘it’s not singing, it’s just talking’ to the ﬁrst rap. Robert Ashley
Interdisciplinary Art and Chinese Currents in New Music