|Tang Jianping: Yuan||Composer|
Tang Jianping was born in Liaoyun, Jilin province in north-eastern China. Tang began his formal musical studies in 1970 while attending the Jilin Art School, where he learned western percussion. In 1978, he began composition studies with Professor Zhang Shouming and Professor Huo Cunhui at the Shenyang Conservatory, and in 1985 he was accepted into the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music. While at his studies at the Central Conservatory, Tang would recieved both his master’s and doctorate degrees under the tutelage of Prof. Su Xi – becoming the first student trained entirely in China to receive a post-graduate degree in composition.
Tang Jianping is one of China’s most successful contemporary composers, and has composed in virtually every genre and style, including electronic compositions, works for ethnic instrumental ensembles, film scores, and music for television. Throughout this diverse output one consistently finds a distinctive Chinese humanistic spirit, whether the source of inspiration directly quotes folk material or its philosophic orientation. In addition to his work as a composer, Tang is the head of the Composition Department of The Central Conservatory of Music, a founding member of the Chinese Folk Orchestra Society, creative director for the China Symphony Development Foundation, director of the Chinese Opera Research Institute, a passionate scholar of ethnic musicology, and a popular dissertation coach for doctoral students.
His representative works include: Chun Qiu (pipa concerto inspired by The Spring and Autumn Annals, attributed to Confucius), Cang Cai, the percussion concerto Sacred Fire 2008, Fei Ge (The Flying Song), Shaolin in the Wind, Jing Wei (music for the dance drama), White Horses among the Reeds (cantata on Buddhist themes), music for the television documentary The Forbidden City, Genghis Khan (a dramatic cantata for Mongolian throat singers, ethnic instruments, soloists, choir and orchestra) and the opera Song of Youth, (based on the popular 1959 patriotic film of the same name). Tang’s music has received numerous national awards, including the first “Golden Bell” Award for composition (for the pipa concerto Chun Qiu), Lotus Dance Drama Award and the Ministry of Culture’s distinguished Wenhua music award.
Fei Ge was commissioned by Orchestra Asia in 2002, and was originally conceived as a concerto for the Chinese dizi (bamboo flute) accompanied by a Pan-Asian ensemble of instruments.
The present version scored for western orchestra is the composer’s own. The work’s title comes from the distinctive singing style of the Miao/Hmong people who live primarily in the Yunnan-Guizhou region in southwest China. The Miao have one of China’s richest and most varied ethnic music cultures, indeed they have said of themselves: “You will not know Miao music if you do not listen to reed flute; you will not understand Miao folk if you do not drink rice wine.” The Fei Ge or “Flying Song” is a type of courtship singing game where the lovers customarily call to each other over long distances. It is distinguished by a piercing tone quality and a type of yodel – that actually amplifies the sound. Using this as a point of departure, Tang freely drew upon ethnic musical styles, including that of the Yi nationality.
Fei Ge is divided into four sections, which play without pause. The work opens with a gentle, improvisatory section whose melodic outlines are reminiscent of Miao Flying Songs. The tempo accelerates and the second section begins with a trumpet fanfare – originally scored for the strident-sounding Chinese shawm, called the Suona – and features the characteristic, vigorous rhythms of a Yi festival dance. A short cadenza leads to the lyrical heart of the work with the recorder playing a gently ornamented melody that swings back and forth between 4/4 and 6/8, punctuated by thirty-second-note runs. A second cadenza, ending on a long trill leads to the vigorous, triumphal concluding dance.