Live music, multimedia performance of cosmological stories

Photo courtesy of Culture and Technology of UBC Okanagan.

Orchid Ensemble and the Centre for Culture and Technology of UBC Okanagan will be presenting Music of the Heavens, a collaborative fusion of live music and multimedia animated visuals at the Norman Rothstein Theatre in Vancouver on Nov. 23.

Lan Tung, founder of Orchid Ensemble, says it took five years for a team of students and Aleksandra Dulic, PhD associate professor in Creative Studies and director of the Centre for Culture and Technology, to create the animations for Music of the Heavens.

“We have been working together since 2006, accumulating the materials to combine music and videos,” says Tung. “This is the biggest project we are doing together.”

Cosmological stories

Music of the Heavens tells cosmological stories from three cultural heritages: Greek, Chinese and the Indigenous Haudenosaunee.

Weaver Woman is a very famous Chinese love story that Tung says is known all over Asia. Weaver Woman, a Goddess who used to weave the clouds into beautiful clothes, fell in love with a cowherd, got married to him and neglected her job. As human emotions were forbidden, her angry father sent the cowherd down to the earth to experience worldly sufferings. Weaver Woman snuck down to the earth and reunited with the cowherd, until her father separated them again. They were finally allowed to meet each other once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month. On this day, the Vega star and the Altair star get close to each other and the lovers cross a bridge formed by magpies to meet each other.

The Greek section touches upon several different myths and constellation stories and the intersections between them. The Haudenosaunee Nation tells the story about the three brothers who chased out Giant Bear, who destroyed their village. Finally, in autumn, one of the brothers caught and shot the bear, the blood turning the leaves red. Every year the three brothers and Giant Bear renew this cycle. The final section features Kelowna community members who have created handcrafted stars of their own stories.

Orchid’s musical styles

“The Orchid Ensemble started in 1997, so we are celebrating our 20th anniversary this year,” says Tung.

Orchid Ensemble started off with three women playing Chinese instruments. The sounds, musical influences and musical styles diversified, ranging from Chinese, Taiwanese and Indian to jazz, other world music, contemporary music and creative improvisation.

“Two years later, we changed from purely Chinese instrumentation to cross-culture Chinese and Western instruments with Jonathan Bernard on percussion,” explains Tung.

The sounds, musical influences and musical styles changed, but the ensemble has consistently been a trio.

“Our third musician is coming all the way from Taiwan,” Tung adds. “Her name is Dailin Hsieh.”

Tung and her music

Greek myths and constellations inspire many stories.| Photo courtesy of Culture and Technology of UBC Okanagan.

Tung started playing the erhu (Chinese violin) when she was 10 years old. She started getting involved in cross-cultural musical projects while playing in summer music festivals, and is now a concert producer, administrator and composer.

“You have to play with people who don’t know your music – you don’t know their music and there is no rehearsal,” Tung explains.

A lot of her interests came from her experiences in experimenting with different types of music with musicians from diverse backgrounds.

“I usually listen to Indian classical music,” says Tung, explaining the Indian influence on her composing. “I went to India to study a couple of times.”

Besides playing and listening to music, Tung enjoys travelling and has traveled to more than twenty countries. She says she especially loves traveling to tropical countries in the winter, like a migrating bird.


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