In works of various dimensions, Yao Chen seeks paths toward transcendence. His music, always ritual in nature, eschews contemporary vogues and instead aims at a timelessness and an otherness that exists beyond the standard categories – music for the moment, but also music for then and music for what lies ahead. Whether his work is brittle or forceful, or often both in coexistence, melancholy and a sense of wonder are recurring characteristics, as is an internationalist orientation grounded in a quest for maximal musical meaning. His perceptions on musical time, timbre, intonation, pulsation, and expression are always at frontiers: between the old and the new, between the East and the West, between irrational mysticism and rational logic. While devoting himself mainly to the field of contemporary art music, Yao also experiments with other genres, writing music for films and theatre productions. Cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary concepts permeate his creative inspiration and compositional output, presenting his understanding of the value of new music in enlivening global cultures.
Historian Judith Zeitlin (University of Chicago, Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations), and Beijing-based composer Yao Chen collaboratively undertake the creation of an opera, with Yao composing the music, and Zeitlin writing the libretto. Entitled Ghost Village, the opera will be based on a ghost story that features in Pu Songling’s (1640-1715) masterpiece, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio.
SIDEBAR welcomes vocalist, composer, scholar, and producer Majel Connery, as she joins Gray Center Mellon Collaborative Fellows, Beijing-based composer, Yao Chen, and scholar, Judith Zeitlin (University of Chicago, Department of East Asian Languages & Civilizations) in conversation about the process of creating an opera.