In partnership with the Cultural Office of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China.
Impression of Wintersweet (2000)
xiao, pipa, percussion
Valley Stream (1983)
dizi, erhu, zheng, percussion
dizi (bamboo flute) and pipa
Three Chinese Folk Songs
Leaving Home 走西口
Lan Hua Hua 兰花花
Driving The Mule Team 赶牲灵
dizi, erhu, pipa, zheng, percussion
HENG (Eternity) (1987)
xiao, erhu, pipa, zheng, percussion
Taiping Drum (1983)
erhu and pipa
Mount a Long Wind (2004)
dizi, erhu, pipa, zheng, percussion
Zhou Long is a composer whose music brings together the aesthetic concepts and musical elements of East and West. Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for his first opera, Madame White Snake, Dr. Zhou has been a two-time recipient of commissions from the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. In 2015, Zhou Long was nominated for a Grammy Award.
Born in 1953 in Beijing, Zhou Long began his studies at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in 1977. In 1983 he was appointed composer-in-residence with the China Broadcasting Symphony. He traveled to the United States in 1985 to attend Columbia University, where he studied with Chou Wen-chung, Mario Davidovsky, and George Edwards, receiving his doctorate in 1993. He was director of Music From China, a group founded in 1984 with the aim of presenting concerts of traditional Chinese music in the United States. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.
Recent works include his Tsingtao Overture, Beijing Rhyme: A Symphonic Suite (commissioned by the Beijing Symphony Orchestra), a string quartet commissioned by Wigmore Hall and Lincoln Center, and Postures, a piano concerto commissioned by the BBC Proms and the Singapore Symphony. His epic symphonic work Nine Odes (2013), which set poems by Qu Yuan for four solo voices and orchestra, was commissioned by the Beijing Music Festival.
Zhou Long’s music embraces elements of traditional Chinese music and of American symphonic music. Newsweek described him as a composer who is “creating striking works that fuse memories and music from the East with Western-style compositions, drawing on Chinese folk songs, literature, poetry, and history.”
For three decades, Music From China has been on the crossroads of East and West, the traditional and contemporary. In this age of instant new media and globalization, they see their mission as more important than ever. Since 1984, Music From China has brought the best of Chinese music to audiences in the New York area and beyond. Critics have praised them as “musicians of extraordinary accomplishment and sensitivity performing sophisticated, involving music,” (Kansas City Star) and have singled them out for being “accustomed to shattering listeners’ expectations.” (High Fidelity).
From the start, Music From China carved a unique place for themselves in the music world by playing not only the traditional repertoire, but the latest of contemporary work as well. For more than two decades, their annual Premiere Works concert series has been one of the world’s primary venues for new works written for Chinese instruments – by both emerging and established composers. The International Composition Competition draws submissions from around the world for their prestigious Music From China Prize.
As collaborators, Music From China regularly works with other ensembles, notably the new-music pioneers PRISM Quartet and the early-music Four Nations Ensemble. In 2001, they joined Yo-Yo Ma in a unique event that included the playing of 3,000-year old Chinese bronze bells at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art in Washington, D.C. For creative programs that combine the music of East and West, Music From China was awarded an Adventurous Programming commendation from Chamber Music America and ASCAP.
Their educational programs have taken them to almost 200 schools, giving students in elementary through high school hands-on experience with Chinese instruments and a musical window into Chinese culture. Artist-in-residence programs have taken them to campuses from Bard College and Texas A&M to Princeton University and beyond.
Notes by Zhou Long, 2016
Impression of Wintersweet《梅花三弄》
Meihua Sannong (the triplex tune “Plum Blossom”), on which I based Impression of Wintersweet, is one of the most favored qin (seven-stringed zither) compositions among both traditional qin artists, who frequently perform and record it, as well as contemporary qin composers. The renowned musician, Huan Yi (ca. a.d. 383), is said to have composed the piece for the xiao (vertical bamboo flute). Later, the piece was adapted for qin and recorded in 1425 in the Shenqi Mipu (Mysterious and secret notations), the earliest existing qin handbook.
In 1984, the China Record Corporation produced a disc of my original compositions for traditional Chinese instruments. Among many of my works in this genre is Valley Stream (1983), written for a quartet of Chinese instruments (di, guan, zheng and percussion). My goal for the work was to preserve the idiomatic nuances of traditional Chinese music while experimenting with instrumentation, performance techniques, rhythm and sonority. Ethnomusicologist, Qiao Jianzhong, remarked, "In Valley Stream, composer Zhou Long has dealt a blow to the established formulas of Chinese music of the last thirty years."
Green was composed for artists Wu Man and Wang Ciheng in 1983. The instrumentation calls for both the Dizi (Chinese bamboo flute) and pipa. Wu Man and Wang Ciheng later recorded the piece with China Record Co. in 1984. Heaven is blue, Earth is yellow, and green represents all the plants they nurture. Green symbolizes the spirit of life. The music is exquisitely provocative: its sound, while filling the distant space, evokes the communion between man and nature.
Heng (Eternity) 《恒》
Commissioned by Music From China (grant from the New York State Council on the Arts) in 1987.
In Heng, traditional Chinese instruments are used in an unconventional manner to seek greater variations and richness of sonority and tone color. Like the eternal stars in heaven, in stillness lies a realm of movement. With this philosophic outlook, this composition uses various treatments of single notes, each meaningful in expression, to symbolize the theme of eternity. For this purpose I chose to mix traditional Chinese pentatonic modes and pan-tonal tunes. The continuous background consists of multi-rhythm, which serves as a foil, further increasing the dim lingering atmosphere and conception.
Taiping Drum (also dan gu or taiping gu) is a percussion instrument that originated in Northeastern China in the Tang dynasty. Made from a single membrane in a round fan shape, the drum is held in the left hand with iron rings linked under the handle, while the right hand beats it with a piece of rattan. Originally used by shamans in hunting and sacrificial rites, Taiping Gu became the name of a popular form of song and dance among the Han people. While playing the drum, the performer dances in rhythmic patterns.
Taiping Drum was originally composed in 1983 for violin and piano. The erhu version was later requested by erhu Master, Xu Ke. While composing the piece I drew on the pentatonic folk tune material found in Er Ren Tai, a kind of duo singing and dancing form popularized in Northeastern China. The music’s structure is in rondo form. The piece opens with a strong introduction, imitating the drum beating in a free tempo, while the erhu imitates rhythmic drumbeats with strong pizzicato chords. The first episode is formed by a lyrical melody played by from flowing on the top of the cello's harmonic glissando arpeggios. The second episode combines the two themes together on the erhu and the cello. While the first theme returns, the erhu mimics the intensive drum beats and eventually the music reaches a concluding climax.
Mount a Long Wind《长风破浪》
Dedicated to Music From China for its 20-year anniversary
Mount a Long Wind was commissioned by Music From China with funds provided by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust. The piece premiered on November 6, 2004, under my direction at the Merkin Concert Hall at Abraham Goodman House in New York City. It was scored for dizi, erhu, pipa, zheng, and percussion and also includes suspended cymbal, wind gong, deep gong, 5 opera gongs, 5 blocks, high block, and dagu.
My own journey to America runs concurrently with my journey with Music From China, which has brought us both the joy of exploring and learning. Mount a Long Wind was dedicated to Music From China for their 20th anniversary. It was inspired by Tang dynasty poet Li Bai's The Hard Road (One of Three).
行路难三首之一 The Hard Road - 1 of 3
李白 Li Bai
金樽清酒斗十千 Pure wine costs, for the golden cup, ten thousand coppers a flagon,
玉盘珍羞值万钱 And a jade plate of dainty food calls for million coins.
停杯投箸不能食 I fling aside my chop-sticks and cup, I cannot eat nor drink...
拔剑四顾心茫然 I pull out my dagger, I peer four ways in vain.
欲渡黄河冰塞川 I would cross the Yellow River, but ice chokes the ferry;
将登太行雪暗天 I would climb the Tai-hang Mountains, but the sky is blind with snow..
闲来垂钓碧溪上 I would sit and poise a fishing-pole, lazy by a brook --
忽复乘舟梦日边 But I suddenly dream of riding a boat, sailing for the sun...
行路难 Journeying is hard,
行路难 Journeying is hard.
多歧路 There are many turnings --
今安在 Which am I to follow?...
长风破浪会有时 I will mount a long wind some day and break the heavy waves
直挂云帆济沧海 And set my cloudy sail straight and bridge the deep, deep sea.
My music reflects many of the vivid imageries of the poem. Textured waves accompanied by strong rhythmic chords on the pipa and zheng symbolize a journey--to mount a long wind and break the heavy waves. As the music briefly calms, a vigorous rhythmic section ensues which shapes a scene of driving the dragon boat. In the middle section, a melody played by erhu with harmonics on pipa and glissandi on zheng evoke sounds of nature. The final recapitulation of the vigorous rhythmic section brings the music to a celebratory climax.