Chinese and Western music styles combine for unique performance workshop
A musical fusion of traditional Eastern and Western styles will be heard at the University of Birmingham this week, presented by Chinese music scholar, Professor Haisheng Li.
Professor Li from Guangxi Arts Institute, China is a master of the di (Chinese bamboo flute), the xiao (Chinese vertical bamboo flute) and the xun (a clay based ancient instrument). Professor Li is also the Secretary-General of the Guangxi Traditional Orchestral Music Association. Professor Li will be treating the audience in Birmingham to a performance of his one-of-a-kind, handmade instruments – that are inspired by Chinese classical arts – and include improvisations with their Western counterparts.
Professor Haisheng Li, Guangxi Arts Institute said:
‘I believe that the best way to communicate with the hearts of others, despite national and language boundaries, is music, so I am very delighted to meet with a British audience and new friends through a performance at the University of Birmingham.’
Professor Li has made a series of innovative developments in his field, including patenting several of his own instruments, such as the hao kou bei (which allows performers to drink a cup of tea or coffee, whilst playing a tune at the same time) and the 15-hole xun. Made from clay, the original xun is one of the world’s oldest instruments and has been played in China for over 7,000 years.
Professor Li added:
‘The inspiration for music comes from everyday life, but through scientific and creative development it can be raised to a fine art. That’s why my innovations are often inspired by everyday objects and yet can be collected, played and enjoyed in all walks of life, ranging from collectors – who collect my instruments as art works; professional musicians – who use my instruments for stage performance; and parents and children – who play my instruments while enjoying their favourite drink.
‘Many people would say music is complicated, however my instruments can be played by anyone and in only a few minutes they can express their own emotions.’
As a great example of cross-disciplinary collaboration between musical and design arts, Professor Haisheng Li and Professor Jin Bai have also invented the lian pu (facial mask) xun, a unique piece of art that incorporates several Chinese classical arts, such as the Peking Opera mask, ceramics and stone carving. Ceramicist Professor Bai is Deputy Dean of the Design College of the Guangxi Arts Institute, as well as Director of the Guangxi Female Artists Association and a member of China National Artists Association.
In 2010, the lian pu xun was showcased by Professor Haisheng Li at a live music recital at the opening ceremony of the 6th China-ASEAN Expo, where it was made an official state gift of China. Professor Li’s instruments have been presented to United Nations officials and are displayed in permanent collections in the UK, the US, Japan, Korea, Canada, France and Germany, as well as extensively across China.
The lian pu xun will be the main instrument to be performed alongside more than 10 other Chinese and Western instruments in the Bramall Music Building at the University of Birmingham. Additionally, Professor Haisheng Li and Professor Jin Bai will present the University with a lian pu xun for its permanent collection as part of Professor Li’s official visit on Friday 21 August.
The University’s relationship with China dates back to its foundation. In fact, the first Chinese student joined the University in 1907 and there are now over 10,000 Chinese alumni.
The University of Birmingham launched its China Institute in 2012 to gather together their wide-ranging research activities with Chinese partners and encourage inter-disciplinary research across the University that focuses on China. In addition to the Birmingham based Institute, the University established a presence in Shanghai in 2009 and opened the Guangzhou Centre in 2011, to host its activities in China.
Speaking ahead of the performance, Professor Jon Frampton, Director of the China Institute, University of Birmingham said:
‘We are delighted to welcome Professor Haisheng Li and Professor Jin Bai from Guangxi Arts Institute for what promises to be an inspirational and entertaining event. Their performance supports the strong bonds the University has with the People’s Republic of China and offers a platform for students, staff and the local community to discover more about contemporary Chinese arts and culture.’