The sound of silk: a musical get together that was thousands of years late
I admit that I didn’t know what to expect. First of all, I hadn’t heard anything about it... I usually listen to other kinds of music, so I hadn’t noticed this announcement. However, my friend insisted on going, even if she had to go alone... So I decided to go with her.
I don’t know much about Asian culture and, to be perfectly honest, I usually find Far-Eastern music tedious, or even... funny. So I walked into the theater with a strong sense of bias. When Chang Jing, however, started playing her music, my bias softened and soon it was completely dissolved!
Chang Jing is a master of Guzheng (resembling a zither, but larger) and one of the great contemporary composers of China, wedding a thousand years old tradition with newly crafted melodies that can export her music to the West, stroking the ears of ignorant Europeans such as myself. Highly recognized in China and the Far East, she has played in front of millions, performed at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics and she is a teacher of the Thai Royal Princess.
During the first part of the show, ethereal Chang, with Zhang Di in “Xiao” flutes, took the audience to the misty green landscapes of her homeland, by playing ancient and modern melodies or by affectionately singing poems of love and worship for nature and people, and in great mastery since she is the first artist in China who dares to accompany the Guzheng music with her voice. Truly, I felt that she was singing only for me at a natural balcony over the river Li. If I had to categorize the music I listened to in western terms, I would call it: “New Age for the Middle Age” - and of course, when I realized that, I started to worry and tried to maintain my returning bias!
The second part of the show would dispel any resistance... The Greek acoustic trio “Lyre'n'Rhapsody” (Athena Chioti – singing, Areti Miggou - tabor, Aliki Markantonatou - "Apollonian" twelve-string-lyre) went on stage to accompany Chang. The “Lyre'n'Rhapsody” trio combine ancient lyric poetry with traditional Greek songs, and in their two albums they use the lyre to highlight the spirit of Sappho from Lesvos.
With just one rehearsal, the artists that met on the stage of Trianon, despite the slow tunes they chose, managed to create uplifting conditions of intense emotion that overwhelmed the few people in the audience. And what was hidden behind this successful meeting? The pentatonic scales - this five-tone “fault” that is the basis of musical development in both countries. A musical idiom that allows improvisation as it was well unfolded on stage, especially when the artists played music from Epirus, the region that for thousands of years preserves the pentatonic scales (giving to the Epirus songs its eerie character).
Suddenly, the intended effect, the marrying of two musical traditions seemed such an easy effort as if our ancient ancestors had actually met centuries ago in a magical way! Can we assume that seasonal change allowed musical notes to travel through air? I don’t know, but the dragons hiding in Sichuan in 300BC have cousins that swim carefree today inside the Drakolimni (Dragon Lake) of the Tymfi Mountain in Epirus. This is where the melodies of Chang Jing and Lyre'n'Rhapsody led me: to swim once more with the Tritons... and to look forward to their joint forthcoming album. A magical night that I owe to my friend!
Show: The Sound Of Silk with Chang Jing and the appearance of Lyre‘n’Rhapsody
Date: October 26, 2015
Venue: Trianon Cinema, 21 Kordingtonos Str., Athens
Organization: Meet Culture in collaboration with Trip2Taste, To Tsai and Discover Greece