What kind of sparks are ignited when the jazz saxophone jams with the suona, a Chinese folk music instrument? Can AI-generated images capture the sound of the guqin, China’s oldest stringed instrument? Find out on CGTN The Stage, a two-part TV special that invites musicians from around the globe for an unprecedented rendezvous of ideas, stories, heritages and music that transcends boundaries and borders!
Connected through music
The first 30-min episode of the show features engaging discussions and performances by six guest musicians as well as students from the China Conservatory of Music. The guests each share their unique experiences living and working in China, and how these experiences shaped their music artistically.
Jacob Charles used to live a fast-paced life in the U.S.. Since coming to China and especially after his encounter with the guqin, he has learned to enjoy the moment and let music become a “space” where people could spend time together.
For Astrid Poghosyan, one of the most interesting revelations was her discovery of traditional Chinese instruments that sounded strikingly similar to those she grew up listening to in Armenia, pointing to exchanges amongst the Asian cultures throughout history.
Her sentiment is echoed by Chinese pianist Tian Jiaxin, who loves sharing folk Chinese music in her piano concerts, and has been continuously surprised by the sense of awe and profound appreciation for melodies that she had once thought were simply “Chinese.”
Having trained at both New York’s Juilliard School and China’s Central Conservatory of Music, composer Niccolo Athens has been writing music inspired by the ancient Chinese poetry collection, The Book of Odes. His endeavor finds synergy with guzheng artist Lucy Luan who also studied in China and the U.S.. Interestingly, it was by way of her studying abroad in the U.S. that she unlocked her appreciation for ancient Chinese poems. Lucy also fondly recalls when she and Cameroonian musician Abbe Simon first met, they bonded right away and jammed for hours. In music they found the spark and the common language that transcended cultural backgrounds or music instruments.
A first-ever trans-continental performance has taken The Stage to a new level. Studio audience members in Beijing were pleasantly surprised when a group of students from The Juilliard School in New York appeared live on screen, and even more amazed when they performed seamlessly with students from the China Conservatory of Music.
Virtual concerts are nothing new today with audiences from around the world often tuning in to live performances half way across the globe. Unparalleled in The Stage is that the students from Beijing and New York have found a way to overcome real-time delays to perfectly synchronize and perform different parts of an orchestra in real time.
The performance was followed by a lively discussion between students from across the Pacific Ocean.
Students in Beijing are thrilled to learn that even though the students from Juilliard have never been to Chang’an, the ancient Chinese capital in today’s Xi’an, the song they performed painted a vivid picture of the city for Juilliard students as if they had been there already. One of the highlights was a demonstration and introduction of traditional music instruments by students from Beijing.
The boundless imagination
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is shaping every way of life including music and the arts. How does this diverse group of musicians weigh in on the AI debate? And how do they take advantage of technology in their music and artistic creations?
Jacob has been using AI extensively to generate images that correspond and respond to in real-time the melodies he improvises on his guqin.
He is an advocate for using AI as a tool to assist in the creative process. While most of the panelists share his sentiments, Niccolo sees AI as simply a pool of universal knowledge or a vast database from which “inspiration” is drawn. Lucy feels what makes human creation different from that of AI is that humans, unlike their AI counterparts, make mistakes, which she sees as an invaluable gift for artistic creation.
The panel starts where each of the six guests shares his or her unique cultural backgrounds. While these musicians look forward to the future, they also learn to look to the past for inspiration and wisdom; while they share their love for traditional culture and music, they don’t dwell on the past, but choose to explore “permanence” and “preservation” through technology and crossover. These extraordinary artists, unbound by their instruments, are nevertheless, bound for a common language of tomorrow.
The Stage is a two-part TV special produced by China Global Television Network. The first episode airs on May 31, 2023.
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