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Gamelan concert features pipa player Wu Man

Wu Man will perform with Gamelan Galak Tika on May 14 in Kresge Auditorium.
Wu Man will perform with Gamelan Galak Tika on May 14 in Kresge Auditorium.
Photo / Liu Junqi

International harmony takes on new meaning when a Balinese gamelan orchestra performs with a Chinese lute.

Gamelan Galak Tika (GGT) concludes its 11th season with the world premiere of "Aradhana," written for Balinese gamelan orchestra and pipa (Chinese lute) by composer and GGT artistic director Evan Ziporyn. Master pipa player Wu Man is the featured artist at the concert on Friday, May 14 at 8 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium.

For both Ziporyn, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music, and Wu Man, this is a first attempt to bring these ancient musical forms together.

Ziporyn uses several unusual techniques in the work, the most important being the use of string bows to make sustained sounds in the gamelan, he says in his concert program notes. The source of the work's title comes from the word 'arad,' the old Javanese word for bowing, he adds.

Since founding GGT in 1993, Ziporyn has brought modern Balinese gamelan music to western audiences through works for gamelan and electric guitars, saxophones, electronics and symphony orchestra. His work as a composer and performer with the group Bang on a Can has led him to collaborate with such artists as Brian Eno, Cecil Taylor, DJ Spooky, Matthew Shipp, Meredith Monk and Steve Reich.

In addition to writing this pipa concerto, Ziporyn recently completed a piece for the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (to premiere on May 21) and wrote original music for the American Repertory Theater's upcoming production of "Oedipus."

Wu Man was born into an artistic family in Hangzhou, China and graduated from the Beijing Central Conservatory. In the 1980s, she moved to the United States, where she began building a reputation both in traditional pipa repertoire and as a champion of cross-cultural work.

In 1994, Wu Man performed with the Kronos Quartet and was featured on albums by Henry Threadgill and Sola. She made her debut appearance the following year at the BBC Proms in London. She has performed concerti composed for her by Lou Harrison, Chen Yi and Philip Glass, and she recently toured the world as a featured soloist in Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project.

Also on the May 14 program are traditional music and dance featuring GGT dance director Cynthia Laksawana, and recent works by Dewa Ketut Alit and GGT members Sean Mannion and Rebecca Zook. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for students and seniors, and free to MIT community members and children under 12.

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A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 12, 2004 (download PDF).

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