‘Ancient Paths, Modern Voices’ illuminates Chinese culture in O.C.

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My Sunday Arts & Books story on the ‘Class of 1978’ -- the first group of Chinese musicians who were allowed to pursue their music studies at the Beijing Central Conservatory after the 10-year tumult of Mao Tse-tung’s Cultural Revolution -- serves as a preview for the wide-ranging ‘Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: A Festival Celebrating Chinese Culture’ that begins Oct. 11 with music, film, theater and cultural events at various Orange County locations including the Orange County Performing Arts Center, South Coast Plaza and the Orange County Museum of Art. The group is named for the year the artists entered the conservatory.

The expansive festival, which continues through Nov. 24, is an offshoot of Carnegie Hall’s Oct. 21-Nov. 10 festival in New York. The West Coast version is presented by Segerstrom Center for the Arts and Philharmonic Society of Orange County.

Quoted in the story are two ‘Class of 1978' composers who rose to international prominence and whose work will be part of the festival: Chen Qigang, who last year served as music director of the Beijing Olympics, and Liu Sola, whose work embraces elements of American pop music and jazz. Liu is also the author of the novella ‘You Have No Choice,’ a tell-all based on her experiences in the conservatory that became a best-seller in China.

Composer Tan Dun, best known to American audiences for his Academy Award-winning score for Ang Lee’s film ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and perhaps for his composition ‘Water Passion After St. Matthew,’ performed using lighted, amplified water bowls as percussion instruments.


We couldn’t pin down the busy Tan for an interview -- but in this video, the composer talks about how his experiences during and after the Cultural Revolution shaped his music and his life. Also speaking in the video are Chen and other prominent artists who will participate in the Orange County fest, including popular pianist Lang Lang and pipa virtuoso Wu Man.

For more information on the West Coast festival visit the Philharmonic Society website.

-- Diane Haithman