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Storyteller in song

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-24 07:13

Chinese folk singer Gong Linna performs in the concert Cloud River Mountain in New York in mid-July. The concert was a collaboration of musicians from the West and East. [Photo provided to China Daily]

At the concert, Gong performed 11 songs, with lyrics in both Mandarin and English, composed by Zollitsch, Gordon, Wolfe and Lang.

The four composers also collaborated on an instrumental piece. The music and lyrics were inspired by ancient Chinese poetry and myths, which was an idea initiated by Zollitsch.

"We did rehearsals from 10 am to 5 pm for about a week. With the diverse backgrounds of each composer, we had an amazing experience of cross-cultural musical communication," says Gong.

Born in Guiyang, the capital of Southwest China's Guizhou province, Gong started learning Chinese folk singing at a very young age and enrolled at the Chinese Conservatory of Music in Beijing at age 16.

"I performed not as a singer but also as a storyteller in the concert. Sometimes I sang like one of the mythical figures with sounds of crying and yelling," says the 42-year-old singer.

Since each of the composers has a unique style, Zollitsch gave the composers different materials based on their own styles, Gong says.

For example, American composer Lang, who won the 2010 Grammy Award for best small ensemble performance, composed Moon Goddess, which was inspired by Tang Dynasty (618-907) poet Li Shangyin's work about the goddess who lives on the moon.

Gordon composed the piece, When Yi Shot Down the Sun, which was based on Tian Wen (Asking Questions to Heaven) by Qu Yuan, a poet during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). The piece tells the Chinese myth of a young archer named Hou Yi, who shot down nine suns to cool the earth.

"It was fascinating to explore Chinese culture and the traditional Chinese vocal performance practices that Gong Linna brings to her singing," says Gordon, adding that Gong is the first Chinese singer they have worked with.

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