“What’s Next?” in Asian Creative Music

One of the joys of travel is meeting new people, especially when we share friends in common. Before arriving in Vietnam to begin our 2019 concerts with the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, my husband Jeff and I decided to visit Singapore and Thailand to meet some of their composers and contemporary music leaders. I am pleased to report that creativity in Asian contemporary music is thriving and exciting.

With introductions from our Vietnamese colleagues, Facebook and emails facilitated quick connections. Luckily musicians love to eat, so our conversations also included local food as well as introductions to music and cultural institutions.

Experience Counts – The Personal Touch

The message in my voicemail was short and to the point: “I am a volunteer with the Music Academy of the West and I would like to thank you for your donation to our CARS program. This will benefit our scholarship fund and I am happy to let you know that we reached our annual goal six months early! If you would like to hear more about our programs, please call me at the following number.”

I was particularly happy to experience the personalized acknowledgment of our gift as I am an alumnus of the Music Academy. This exciting music festival which occurs each summer with top faculty in an incredible setting draws young music students from around the world.

Looking for Models

The legendary Kolisch Quartet had the singular distinction of playing its entire repertoire from memory, including the impossibly complex modern works of Schoenberg, Webern, Bartok, and Berg. Eugene Lehner was the violist for the quartet in the 1930’s. Lehner’s stories about their remarkable performances often included a hair-raising moment when one player or another had a memory slip. Although he relished the rapport that developed between them without the encumbrance of a music stand, he admits there was hardly a concert in which some mistake did not mar the performance. The alertness, presence, and attention required of the players in every performance is hard to fathom, but in one concert an event occurred that surpassed their ordinary brinkmanship.

Enchanting Chinese Ceramics

Osaka, Japan, is usually off the radar of most tourists. It is Japan’s second largest city and contains many of the advantages of Tokyo on a slightly smaller scale. The food scene is one of the most exciting in Japan, with local specialties such as okonomiyaki (a version of a Japanese pizza cooked on a griddle with your choice of ingredients), unusual fish from the ocean nearby, and small restaurants that present Kushikatsu cooking of seemingly endless ingredients grilled on skewers.

The arts scene is also important, with three local symphony orchestras, lots of chamber music, and local theatre and opera such as Bunruku which combines traditional music with life-sized puppets in 500 year-old stories.

Edifice Complex continued

The Edifice Complex continues to rear its head — yet another new performing arts building is conceived with little thought to the art that will reside inside and outside. Juxtaposed articles in The Scotsman demonstrate clearly how a new building can exacerbate local problems with little interaction with local artists and the community’s music education institutions.

The Edifice Complex demonstrates the income inequality problems of the developed world that have evolved over the past few decades. Wealthy patrons in many cities want to justifiably indicate the maturity of their cultural scene through the construction of a world class facility for the performing arts or a museum to show their collection of priceless treasures.

Mis amigos en México

At times of natural disasters, such as the recent hurricanes in Florida, Texas and the Caribbean, and the earthquakes in México, tragedy becomes personal when you have friends or family in harm’s way. We have many contacts around the globe who cause us worry when we read about threats to their countries. Luckily everyone is safe this time and we send our best wishes that life will return to normal as soon as possible.

With this blog post, I look forward to introducing you to some of our other dear friends with whom we have collaborated over many years, and continue to enjoy making music together. The artistic vision of Southwest Chamber Music, the ensemble my husband and I founded in 1986, has always included a commitment to diversity, reflecting the reality of the population of Los Angeles.

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