What is the first word that pops into your mind when you think of East Asian music?
Ancient? Traditional? Mysterious? Exotic? It might be, but what you will hear in this Friday’s concert by PAN Project at Convocation Hall is all of this and so much more.
By Meijun Chen
The PAN Project Ensemble was formed by Korean piri (a Korean oboe) master Gamin and American composer, guqin performer and University of Alberta instructor, Dr. Jeff Roberts. They founded the ensemble to create music based in East Asian traditions while creating a modern, global intercultural sound. Quoting Dr. Roberts, “Nowadays in the western countries, for example in North America, when East Asian musicians play with the western players, the direction of the improvisation tends to head more in a direction to the West. PAN Project endeavors to direct the focus of their improvisations to the music languages of East Asian cultures.
This amazing ensemble is made up of Jeff Roberts (Chinese Guqin), Gamin Kang (Korean piri & saenghwang), Woonjung Sim (Korean Janggu, buk) and Kaoru Wantanabe (Japanese shinobue, noh kan, taiko).
Gamin is one of the most celebrated piri, taepyeongso (Korean traditional oboe family) and saengwhang (ancient wind-blow instrument) performers in Korea today. She is the ‘yujisa’ of intangible cultural heritage asset No. 46 in Piri Court Music and Daechita by UNESCO World Heritage Center. She is the definition of Korean court music in Piri performance.
Kaoru is one of the top Taiko drum masters in the world, a master of Japanese flutes, a Jazz flutist, and has collaborated with some of the top ensembles in the world including Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble.
Jeff Roberts is a professor in University of Alberta Department of Music as well as East Asian Studies Department, at the same time he is a composer as well as an improviser. As a performer, Jeff improvises and collaborates on Chinese Guqin and guitar, as composer, his compositions have been performed in many countries including US, Europe and Asia.
Woonjung Sim, the winner of World Music Award (2009) and Experimental Spirit Award (2010) of the 21st Century Korean Music Project Competition organized by Korean government, is a percussionist who has been recognized for her excellent musical talent and accomplishments nationwide.
Wang Ying-chieh is no doubt the most celebrated Erhu player of her generation; her repertoire includes traditional Classics, contemporary compositions and crossover productions.
China, Korea and Japan have a very abundant history in cultural exchange, cross-cultural communications and it’s very interesting to consider the intercultural history in East Asian traditions, especially in the current day global context. PAN Project develops their music by starting with music from one East Asian culture, Japan for example, and trying to find connections with the melodies and instruments of Korean and Japanese culture, to bring all three together in one united synthesis.
Friday’s concert endeavors to be a very exciting event to attend to see how these East Asian traditions come together as well how these traditions meet and blend with influences from the Western world. These not only include the music of the west, but also the use of technology as well. The world-class musicians of PAN Project Ensemble have already arrived on the University of Alberta campus for their week of residence, already weaving cultural histories of China, Korea and Japan through Western improvisation and technology.
Their week concludes with a free concert in Convocation Hall on Friday, November 25 at 8 pm, with a pre-concert talk about East Asian interculturalism at 7 pm. There is also a welcome reception for the ensemble, hosted by East Asian Studies department, in the Lobby lounge of Old Arts Building on Thursday, November 24 at 4 pm. All events are free and open to the public. These events, especially the concert on Friday is not to be missed!