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Saturday, March 2
The Indiana Daily Student


Cultures collide in student compositions

Pianist Yihan Chen performs his voice and piano arrangment, "Vanished Through Time," at the East Meets West concert Sunday at the Art Museum. The concert showcased New Chinese music written for Western instruments.

To see art from Asian and Western cultures side by side at the IU Art Museum, visitors must enter a gallery on the second floor.

But on Sunday, all they had to do was enter the lobby.

“East Meets West: A Concert of New Chinese Music” took place outside a gallery entitled “Arts of Asia and the Western World.”

The show merged these two cultures through the compositions and arrangements of Jacobs School of Music students.

The producer of the event, Yulin Yu, said she wanted to introduce Chinese philosophies, including a respect for nature, to a Western audience.

“A lot of Westerners don’t know about this,” she said

Yu said this has been done through literature in the past, but it’s more accessible in a musical form.

Performers like master’s student Ari Fisher used Western instruments to play songs based on Asian themes.

He arranged and performed the first piece of the event and said he enjoys experiencing other cultures through art.

“It’s always something that’s enlightening, I believe,” he said.

Fisher arranged a violin piece that was originally written for the erhu, a two-stringed Chinese 

Translating the music from two strings to four was a challenge, he said.

He tried to keep the sighing sound of the erhu in the arrangement through sliding his fingers on the violin and bending pitches.

“It’s a really fun and exhilarating experience,” Fisher said.

The sighing sound is pretty common in Asian music, Fisher said. Other performers also used different techniques to create it.

Senior Alexandra Mullins played the harp on a piece called “Zemeng Boat,” composed by Beijing native and Jacobs student Qi Li.

“We used a lot of special effects on the harp in this piece,” Mullins said.

One of these effects required Mullins to slide a screwdriver up and down her harp’s strings, once again creating a sighing sound.

Mullins said she doesn’t play Asian music often but enjoys the opportunity to broaden her experience.

“I think performing new music is really challenging compared to a lot of other classical music, so it improves me as a musician,” she said.

The final performance of the afternoon came from pianist Yihan Chen.

Before he began, associate producer John McHugh said Chen’s accolades include performing at Carnegie Hall when he was 16 years old.

Chen played a 23-minute original composition about the life and destruction the Yellow River brings in 

“Actually, this piece was originally from a four-minute piece that I composed,” he said after the 

Chen said he extended the piece so it could fully capture the emotion he was trying to illustrate.

Fisher sat beside him and turned pages for all 23 minutes.

“It’s amazing,” Fisher said, “It’s wonderful. It’s beautiful.”

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