Confluence of Chinese and Western Cultures: Chen Yi's Ba Ban (1999) for solo piano

In her solo piano work Ba Ban (1999), Chen Yi juxtaposed a pentatonic folk tune with a twelve-tone row and her own chromatic melody, and set them into the contexts of a Chinese traditional composition Ba Ban: A 68-beat tune that consists of eight phrases, eight beats each, except the fifth phrase that has an additional 4 beats where the golden section falls in the middle (Chen, 1993).  Whether by means of compositional techniques or by means of musical gestures, Chen Yi’s music demonstrated a unique syncretism of Chinese and Western musical elements that set her apart from the former generations. How did the composer achieve such confluence of musical cultures? What does it mean to the performers? How does it affect the interpretation? In this lecture recital, I will examine her unique musical syncretism and attempt to make a connection to the performance. With reference to the performance practice in Chinese folk and instrumental music, analytical observations on pitch selection, rhythmic organization and formal structure are applied to the practice issues of interpretation including the articulation, emphasis, phrasing, shaping, ornamentation, choice of tone color, and manipulation of timing.