PIAO ZHU: Flying Bamboo

Inspired by the legend of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, Karen Akada, Kelsey Furuta, Karen Lindenberg, and I have been collaborating on Piao Zhu (飄竹), translated from Chinese as Flying Bamboo. This 21st century meditation about overcoming obstacles has for me, had a few inner obstacles. More than writer's block (we are generating plenty of dance and music material), I have "what-is-this?" block.

Is this work an escape from or to a place of understanding?

The Seven Sages were a band of Chinese scholars and poets who met to escape political and societal duress during the 3rd century BCE. Similarly, I feel bombarded by potential catastrophes, yet know that I lead a relatively safe life.

I think about the Capitol Hill shooter and suicide bombers. Where do I stand in relation to these killers? The ritual we create happens in the safe cultural container of the Museum's Garden Court, yet references death. I reflect on the horror and beauty of bending amidst turmoil like bamboo in a storm. This has been our starting point, yet it is easy to get involved in the abstraction of the music, in the right-left-left-left drum stick pattern or the bamboo pole overhead turn.

Composing for me has always been a practice. This structural work is far from the spontaneous act of killing or perhaps composing is the premeditation that preceeds the violence of presenting a work.

I am reminded of a composer who said that if he didn't write music, he would be a murderer. Stravinsky also wrote about how creation and destruction are intertwined. I discovered by performing once with the Infernal Noise Brigade that I performed music to bring people together. My friend, a founder of INB, wanted every performance to end with police sirens flashing. That was the only performance where I got punched in the face by someone who didn't want to hear the music. On cue, the cops arrived.

This is scarily humanistic of me and doesn't reflect the modernist fragmented state I inhabit, but I realize that I enjoy escapist music. After all, I am a product of the classical music world. I would happily fly into the bamboo grove then risk being shot. This is why even though the U.S. military hires musicians, I have yet to submit my application.

Ceremonies pause time. They allow people to gather and contemplate. I am Chinese and a composer, so I will go into the pure conversation of the bamboo grove thinking about the state of the world. Hopefully a deeper appreciation of life will result from this work.

Here's an excerpt...
Seven rites,
Uneven times,
Public trauma,
Secret desires.

Unity from chaos,
Spring into summer,
Versatile and strong,
Flying bamboo.



More about Piao Zhu...