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Culture Knows No Borders: Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing Releases Documentary ‘Listening to the Future’

The Central Conservatory of Music (CCOM) in Beijing continues to promote cross-cultural activities between Chinese and Western institutions and composers, while propelling Chinese music forward in the international arts community. A new 30-minute documentary film, Listening to the Future, celebrates a number of COMM’s initiatives.

In 2017 the Conservatory founded the Chinese Music Composition Center to foster new works by Chinese composers. In 2018, the first 13 works commissioned by the Center debuted at Lincoln Center in New York. Then, last year, a Carnegie Hall concert presented pieces by eight Chinese composers, six of them world premieres. Yu Feng conducted the CCOM Symphony Orchestra in works that incorporate Chinese and Western musical elements, including traditional Chinese instruments – music that is “modernized, world-oriented, and embracing the future,” in Yu’s words.

The documentary includes brief but enlightening interviews with these composers. The program included Qin Wencheng’s concerto for sheng, “The Cloud River”; Chen Danbu’s “Sleeve Dagger and Warriors,” a pipa concerto based on a traditional story; two works for bamboo flute and orchestra; and Tang Jianping’s onomatopoeic “Cang Cai” (2003) for percussion and orchestra, which honors those who fought SARS, a pointed reflection of the present worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

In another cross-cultural project, CCOM Press, CCOM’s music publishing arm, and venerable Western publisher Edition Peters have together created the Silk Road Library project. Launched in April 2019, it plans to release in 2021 an international version of the collection of all 13 Chinese Music Composition Center scores. As Edition Peters President Kathryn Knight says, “It is in the area of contemporary music that we can make the most significant progress in ‘living’ cultural exchange between East and West.”

Also this year, the Chinese Music Composition Center plans a performance tour in Europe. An ensemble comprised of musicians from the symphony orchestras of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna (MDW) and CCOM will perform at venues including the Grosser Saal of the Wiener Konzerthaus. Ulrike Sych, Rector of the MDW, explains: “Especially in these globally challenging days – in the face of public restrictions, closed borders, and closed institutions – the [combined] ensemble provides the most beautiful evidence that culture knows no borders and always remains open.”

Listening to the Future premiered on the Violin Channel’s YouTube channel and Facebook page on December 28.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Music, where he covers classical music (old and new) and other genres, and Culture, where he reviews NYC theater. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he is on a mission to visit every park in New York City. He has also been a part-time working musician, including as lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado.

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