Chen Yi1997

Trained as a violinist in the European classical tradition, Chen Yi initially came into contact with Chinese folk music in a forced relocation to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. Already widely celebrated in China as a major new composer during the increasingly open cultural climate of the 1980s, Chen Yi came to the United States in 1986 to continue her musical studies. She writes both intimate and large scale works for European and Chinese instruments, and fuses Western orchestral and choral idioms with traditional Eastern pentatonic tonalities. A recent multimedia work, Chinese Myths Cantata, yokes a symphony orchestra, an ensemble of traditional Chinese instrumentalists and a choir of male singers, a Chinese dance troupe with visual image projections on stage.

"Classical music was forbidden during the Cultural Revolution but I tried hard to continue playing. Even when I worked for twelve hours a day as a laborer, carrying hundred-pound loads of rocks and mud for irrigation walls, I would play both simple songs to farmers along with excerpts from the standard western classical repertory. It was during that period that I started thinking about the value of individual lives and the importance of education in society. As an artist living in the United States, I feel strongly that I can improve the understanding between people by sharing my music."