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Chew offers 'Impressions from the East'

Elaine Chew, whose multiple roles at MIT include a PhD candidate at the Operations Research Center, an affiliated artist with the music and theater arts section and an Advanced Music Performance student, will present various aspects of her creative side with "Impressions from the East," a combination piano recital and photo exhibition.

The concert of contemporary Chinese and impressionistic French piano music on Monday, Feb. 9 at 5pm in Killian Hall showcases two of China's more outstanding composers, drawing parallels between the Chinese and French musical traditions.

"Impressions from the East" will present three contrasting piano suites: Jiang Wenye's Poems of Seasons from the Home Village, Wang Lisan's Impressions of Paintings by Higashiyami Kaii and Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit.

"The similarities between Chinese and French music are manifold," said Ms. Chew, citing the use of impressionistic harmonies, the exploitation of unusual chords and whole-tone scales, and the preference for repetition, sequences and variation rather than regular development.

Ms. Chew, who was born in Buffalo, NY, and raised in Singapore, visited Beijing last summer through a grant from the MIT International Science and Technology Initiative (MISTI) China Program to establish contact with musicians and scholars in the field of contemporary Chinese piano music and to collect scores, recordings and literature. She returned with approximately 140 pounds of music books, of which one-third went to MIT's Lewis Music Library.

Most of this music has not been heard outside of China, except at international piano competitions when Chinese competitors are required to present a piece from their home country, Ms. Chew noted. "I hope to fill this gap in the American music scene by getting public radio stations interested in recording and airing some of these pieces," she said, adding she hopes to record this music for wider distribution.

An accompanying exhibition of photographs from Beijing taken by Ms. Chew provides context for the Chinese music. Following the concert, the exhibition will be on view at the Wiesner Student Art Gallery on the second floor of the Stratton Student Center through Saturday, Feb. 28.

Some of Ms. Chew's upcoming concert engagements include an invitation to play at the President's Charity Concert with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and a collaborative concert with flutist Lars Asbjornsen in Washington, DC. Her chamber music performance of Professor Peter Child's Trio (1996) will be released on Neuma Records shortly.

The collection of Chinese music was funded by a grant from the MISTI China Program and the photographic exhibition was aided by a grant from the Council for the Arts at MIT. The concert was made possible by the music and theater arts section.

For more information, call x3-2826.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 4, 1998.

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