Pipa virtuoso Wu Man appeared at the University of Montana Music Recital Hall on February 19, 2010 to present a Chinese music workshop sponsored by the Confucius Institute at the University of Montana. About 300 people attended the workshop. For many of them, it was a first encounter with the pear-shaped, four-stringed, lute-like instrument.
At the workshop, Ms. Wu introduced the history and development of the pipa and played several different styles of traditional pipa music, including "Ambush from 10 Sides" and "White Snow in the Spring." "White Snow" represents the lyrical style, which is very soft and elegant and includes bending notes and tremolo, according to the artist. "Ambush," in contrast, is very dramatic and percussive and has a much tougher, hard-hitting sound. Ms. Wu laughingly recounted the story of one American who, upon hearing the piece, said "Hey, that reminds me of Jimi Hendrix." (Jimi Hendrix was an icon of America's "acid rock" era). We're not so sure.
The Montana audience, which consisted of UM students and community members of all ages, clearly enjoyed the workshop, as they peppered Ms. Wu with numerous questions after her informal presentation. Several also asked the CIUM staff where they could get more information about pipa and other Chinese traditional music and instruments. They could not have had a more distinguished and engaging instructor. A Grammy Award nominee, Ms. Wu has worked and performed with some of the world's best composers and musicians, and been a principal member of Yoyo Ma's Silk Road Project. As such, she is playing a vital role in conveying the richness and diversity of Chinese traditional music. "Most of the Chinese music the audience in America has heard is urban music," she said. "I want to bring something very folk, earthy -- like Gypsy music. It's the other side of China."
The music workshop was part of the UM Confucius Institute's on-going "Chinese Cultural Workshop Series." Ms. Wu also played as a featured artist in two sold-out concerts with the Montana-based String Orchestra of the Rockies during her stay.
Wu Man playing with String Orchestra of The Rockies