January 1, 2009

Zhou Long

Zhou Long (cond): [Zhou Long / Music from China: Tales from the Cave]

Zhou Long is a US composer of Chinese origin. His works - as far as I can tell - are often composed for Chinese instruments or a mixture of Chinese and western chamber ensembles, yet they do not only draw their right to exist from this cultural hybridity (even when Zhou is writing for Chinese instruments exclusively, his compositional style itself is already a hybrid between oriental and accidental musical culture), but they rest in themselves. Not covering or denying hybridity, they are more a unified whole, where political correctness doesn't count anymore - all that counts is artistic value.
On this blog I am actually normally not including composers but focussing on performers of music - though many of the improvisers mentioned here are certainly "instant composers" in Misha Mengelberg's sense of the word. However, as Zhou Long is not only a composer but also a conductor of his and other people's works, I count him as a performer, too. In his function as a performer, he's also the artistic director of New York's ensemble Music from China. Therefore: voilà!

"My mother is a soprano, and she taught German lied, French art song, and some opera repertoire. And from my childhood I heard a lot of recordings. My childhood was really Western music, but since then I worked in the countryside and later I worked with a song-and-dance troupe in Zhang Jia Kou, a small city near Beijing. I also went to the countryside to collect folk songs, and I started to love the folk songs. I was in Mongolia, and everyone from the age of five years old was riding horses and sang songs that were really moving and touching to me. I worked in a junction of three provinces. That city near Beijing is in Hubei [Province] and is also near Shangxi Province and Mongolia. So I really had access to different styles. And the local opera was in different dialects. And, also in the Conservatory, our class all signed up to go south to collect folk songs during summer vacation. Also, I paid more attention to Chinese traditional instruments which might make my music sound more Chinese. But my influences come from 20th-century Western composers, whom I had already started looking at in China. Respighi is a strong influence on my orchestration. Of course, I studied Bartók and Stravinsky. They have the same method we do, using folk songs as material into our composition. I don't know. Chinese composers all have some Chinese style. Maybe I pay more attention to the traditional influences." (Zhou Long in an interview)

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