To the average American, Chinese music might evoke a stereotype, the atonal, plucky sounds of soundtracks to martial arts films, or the ambience in Chinese restaurants. But like Chinese culture, the traditions of Chinese music reach back thousands of years and pull from myriad styles that reflect the diverse landscape of the worlds most populous nation. And weaving through much of it is the distinctive strain on the pipa, the ancient, four stringed instrument sometimes referred to as the Chinese Lute.
Wu Man is an internationally renowned pipa player, and principal member of Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble. She’s now at Dartmouth, where’s she’s in the midst of a multi-media residency, and where she’ll be performing tomorrow night in a program called “Ancient Dances.”
Also joining us is Theodore Levin, Dartmouth’s Chair and Professor of Music, ethnomusicologist, and former Executive Director of the Silk Road Project. He’s collaborated with Wu Man on a new recording called “Borderlands” for the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
Wu Man playing the pipa: