Fri, Nov 21, 2003 - Page 17 News List

Looking back on China's classical music

The best-known forms of Chinese music today are relatively late arrivals on the scene, and the sounds that bear comparison to Western symphonic music are only now being painstakingly recreated by scholar's and performers


"In Western classical music, atonal composition was unheard of before Arnold Schoenburg. But it was part of the Tang musical repertoire more than 1,000 years ago," Liu said. Through the use of the 13-reeded sheng panpipe, a uniquely Chinese instrument, the non-harmonic tonalities are transformed to harmonic effect. It is for such technical accomplishments that Liu believes Tang music should be recognized.

Having spent so many years working to reconstruct long-lost music and dance from incomplete records, Liu has decided to try and make a complete record of one of her own works -- Vast Desert, Solitary Smoke Rises Straight, which premiered in 2000.

"This is probably the first such record containing every aspect of a dance performance, including all the music and choreography," she said. The book, which runs to over 1,000 pages for the-80 minute performance, is set for release in mid-December.

Liu said that with Whirl Around, she will be putting aside her work reconstructing Tang music for a few years and return to working in a more contemporary style. The experience of working on recreating Tang music served its purpose of providing a "Chinese spirit" for Liu's own creative work.

This 30-year journey of discovery, whatever else it may have achieved, has added diversity and richness to the language of Chinese dance and for this reason alone is a worthwhile experience. Tang Grand Piece is more than a dance, it is a doorway into an all but forgotten historical world.

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