For as long as writing was invented, the East and West have been divided. Both became rivals, separated at war. They had huge differenced in ideals and music. So as our final treat of the night, mom bought the tickets to a concert of Sacred and Transcendent led by the Cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble and debuted with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (NYPO) for Chinese New Year in Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
It is well-known that the music of the East and West are largely different. For example, a scale in the East would only contain 5 notes or the pentatonic, while a scale in the West would have at the least 7 notes or the diatonic. Now what would happen if they came together? Would it be catastrophic or beautifully organized harmony?
Mom led us across a huge road on Columbus Ave & Broadway outside of the Shun Lee Chinese restaurant, and we plopped in front of the Lincoln Center. By now, it was flurrying snow, and the ground was all slushy from cars driving by in Midtown Manhattan. We went inside and roamed around Avery Fisher Hall, home of the NYPO until the concert time. This concert was all about bringing the Eastern and Western music together. The four of us would experience how the prestigious musicians performed the traditional music for thousands of years. As Confucius said, to educate somebody, you should start with poems, emphasize ceremonies, and finish with music.
Performers walked on stage to their seats and warmed their instruments up. I saw a clarinet, a pipa or lute, drums, a trumpet, an accordion, a dulcimer, and a few of other string instruments. All of a sudden, they all shushed and a sound burst from somewhere in the audience. It was a gaita, loud and clear. There walking down the aisle was a woman holding an enormous gaita. The sound was very piercing like a whistle, but had a pitch to it. Then across the room, another instrument played. Mom told me that it was a suona. At first, I thought was a flute. After taking a closer look, it seemed more like a mini trumpet, silver and the size of my hand. It sounded extremely high and slightly made my head hurt. The gaita and the suona traded solos for Fanfare of Gaita, Suona, and Brass as both players slowly walked toward the stage. They were greeted by an all out explosion of sound from the other instruments. It seemed chaotic, loud and uncontrollable. The pipa strung as if there was no tomorrow. The clarinet player’s face turned a shade of red and purple from the lack of air that I didn’t even know. The song then gave each instrument a time to shine, passing along the solos to each instrument. Some of instruments like the clarinet were able to play loudly while others, like the pipa, seemed really quiet all by itself. As the live show went on, Yo-Yo Ma led the group to play the repertoire of the Silk Road Suite and Selections from Sacred Signs: Concerto for 13 Musicians.
After the intermission, on came the NYPO with Death and Transfiguration, Op. 24 by R. Strauss. Yo-Yo Ma appeared first, and then followed by the conductor Alan Gilbert. When they played the last piece of Rose of the Winds by Osvaldo Golijov, the East and West in my mind differentiated even more. The West had order, and every single note they played sounded controlled. The conductor was in total a command of everything, and each player needed to contribute a certain amount to make the song sound beautiful. Yet, after witnessing such performance, the East sounded too uneventful. The louds and softs were there, but too… unextreme.
I believed that when there were two extremes, the best solution was the median, for example, sweet and sour, hot and cold, chaotic and uneventful. So for the second part of the show, on came the first and second group. As they played, the first group stood out. The people in the NYPO had no expression in their movements, while the others were swaying like drunken ducks. But they had to hold back from drowning out the orchestra. The NYPO faded into the background ready to play when they were requested. The first group also could be hushed when necessary. The median had been found.
The middle is an important thing, all around the world. So as we left NYC, I learned not only about cultures all over the world, but also a lesson of life.
(Avery Fisher Hall, Home of New York Philharmonic Orchestra 02/21/2015)
大都会歌剧院(Metropolitan Opera House 02/21/2015)
艾弗里•费雪厅(Avery Fisher Hall 02/21/2015)
艾弗里•费雪厅内景(Interior Avery Fisher Hall)
马友友丝绸之路民乐队(Silk Road Ensemble w/ Yo-Yo Ma)
纽约爱乐乐团(New York Philharmonic Orchestra)