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.”