Chinoiserie

Building New Musical Bridges

Duo Chinoiserie
Bin Hu guitar
Jing Xia guzheng

Release Date: April 8, 2022
Catalog #: NV6417
Format: Digital
21st Century
Chamber
East Asian
Guitar

A true melding of Eastern and Western cultures, Duo Chinoiserie’s CHINOISERIE combines the Chinese guzheng and European classical guitar to create an inspired new canon of classical repertoire. A bold and carefully handpicked selection of compositions—including new arrangements of Granados, de Falla, and Debussy alongside a transcription of Goss and new works by Assad, Duplessy, and Nakanishi—explores the instruments’ dialogue and complementary textures while uniting contrasting musical styles into a cohesive, well-defined whole. As the guzheng’s crisp, plucky clarity interplays with the guitar’s chords, even the most well-known classical pieces become fresh and energized, born anew with a unique and visionary sound.

Listen

Hear the full album on YouTube

Stream/Buy

Choose your platform

Performance Video

Zhong Kui’s Journey – Duo Chinoiserie

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Mulan Sérgio Assad Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 8:41
02 Cantigas de Santiago: Quen a Virgen ben servirá Stephen Goss, arr. Duo Chinoiserie Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 3:33
03 Cantigas de Santiago: Ondas do mare de Vigo Stephen Goss, arr. Duo Chinoiserie Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 2:12
04 Cantigas de Santiago: Como póden per sas culpas Stephen Goss, arr. Duo Chinoiserie Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 1:28
05 Cantigas de Santiago: Ay ondas que eu vin ver Stephen Goss, arr. Duo Chinoiserie Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 2:09
06 Cantigas de Santiago: Non é gran cousa se sabe Stephen Goss, arr. Duo Chinoiserie Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 4:29
07 “Oriental” from Danzas Españolas, op. 37 Enrique Granados, arr. Duo Chinoiserie Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 5:05
08 El amor brujo: Danza del terror Manuel de Falla, arr. Duo Chinoiserie Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 1:59
09 El amor brujo: Canción del fuego fatuo Manuel de Falla, arr. Duo Chinoiserie Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 1:46
10 El amor brujo: Danza ritual del fuego Manuel de Falla, arr. Duo Chinoiserie Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 4:08
11 The Girl with the Flaxen Hair Claude Debussy, arr. Duo Chinoiserie Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 2:36
12 Golliwogg’s Cakewalk Claude Debussy, arr. Duo Chinoiserie Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 2:54
13 Inari: Invocation Yusuke Nakanishi Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 3:26
14 Inari: Fox’s Dance Yusuke Nakanishi Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 1:12
15 Inari: Festival Yusuke Nakanishi Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 3:13
16 Zhong Kui’s Regrets Mathias Duplessy Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 6:04
17 Zhong Kui’s Journey Mathias Duplessy Duo Chinoiserie | Bin Hu, guitar; Jing Xia, guzheng 4:55

Recorded July 25-27, 2021 at the Shalin Liu Performance Center MA
Session Producer, Editing, Mixing & Mastering Brad Michel
Session Engineer Tom Stephenson
Liner Notes by Kathy Acosta Zavala

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Morgan Santos

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Production Director Levi Brown
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Production Assistant Martina Watzková

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran
Content Manager Sara Warner

Artist Information

Duo Chinoiserie

Ensemble

Founded in 2016, Duo Chinoiserie is a unique pairing that combines the Chinese guzheng and the European classical guitar. This duo reproduces the elegance of the Chinoiserie style and brings the best of Eastern and Western culture together through music. Its bold and carefully handpicked selection of repertoire explores the instruments’ dialogue and complementary textures while uniting contrasting musical styles into a cohesive, well-defined one.

Learn More

Notes

Reframing Chinoiserie: Building New Musical Bridges
The boom in trade between Europe and East Asia in the 17th and 18th centuries allowed an exchange of economic and cultural commodities. Within this historical context, the style of Chinoiserie emerged, representing the European fantasy of East Asian cultures at a time when international travel was not common. Inspired by it, Duo Chinoiserie is a unique pairing that combines the Chinese guzheng and the European classical guitar. This duo reproduces the elegance of the Chinoiserie style and brings the best of Eastern and Western culture together through music. The texturing, combination, and dialogue between both instruments are displayed on this album through a careful musical selection, exploring the emotional depth that binds classical compositions with global music. Boldly, the album includes new arrangements of well known classical works by Granados, de Falla, and Debussy, a transcription of a work by Goss, and a new set of works by Assad, Duplessy, and Nakanishi. The new compositions both explore and solidify the new instrumental pairing, establishing a new repertoire canon.

— Kathy Acosta Zavala

The album opens with a newly commissioned work by Brazilian composer Sergio Assad. The piece is a programmatic work inspired by and named after the heroine of a Chinese legend, whose name is well known in mainstream popular culture, Mulan. The story of this brave young woman who chooses to take her father’s place and goes to battle impersonating a man dates back to the 4th or 5th centuries AD. Its earliest source is a poem from the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534 AD) titled “Ballad of Mulan.” This poem was passed down from one generation to the next through oral tradition, eventually being written down during the Tang Dynasty (618–907). In the score, Assad carefully writes the storyline, delineating the start and finish of each vignette. He begins his musical depiction with Mulan weaving on a bright morning, suddenly shifting to news of war and the draft. As the story develops, Assad’s characteristic use of propelling rhythms and vibrant syncopations is at full display when depicting the battles. He finishes the composition with the depiction of Mulan’s triumphant return home.

In the composer’s own words: “The combination of a classical guitar with Chinese guzheng is quite unusual but has enormous potential as a chamber combination. Lacking the repertoire for this lineup, Duo Chinoiserie began making their first arrangements with great success and a little later the two began to commission composers to write original pieces for them. The two approached me in 2020 and asked me for a work that would be part of their debut album. It was Jing who suggested that I follow Mulan’s story to write this piece.

“Mulan’s story was told in poems, songs and even in plays. The story is simple: Mulan replaces her old father who supposedly should have left to fight against their country’s invaders. Mulan disguises herself as a man and fights with so much bravery that she becomes an inspiration to other soldiers. Because the story is simple, it becomes a great subject to be turned into program music. The piece was conceived following Mulan’s footsteps since she embarked on her victorious journey, returning years later completely transformed by the war and by her victory. It was a pleasure working with Bin and Jing in bringing this piece to life. Certainly without their support it would have been very difficult to complete such a project. My special thanks to Jing who showed me how to approach her fascinating instrument.”

— Kathy Acosta Zavala

The second piece in this production is a multi-movement work by Welsh composer Stephen Goss titled Cantigas de Santiago. The work was written in 2015 for solo guitar after the title’s eponym, the Camino de Santiago, which is a pilgrimage route that leads to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain.

Goss describes the work as “a modern reworking of medieval music associated with the Camino,” because each of the seven movements draws on musical material from medieval sources. Movements one, three, five, and seven are based on songs from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a collection of 13th-century vernacular and monophonic songs praising the Virgin Mary. Movements two and six are based on songs from the Cantigas de Amigo, a collection of Iberian secular songs written by joglar Martin Codax in the second half of the 13th century. Finally, movement four is based on the “Kyrie Trope, Cunctipotens genitor” from the Codex Calixtinus, a collection of five books compiled between 1138–1145.

Goss’s Cantigas were commissioned by and dedicated to classical guitarist David Russell and his wife María, “who live close to the camino and have walked it many times.” Like the dedicatees, Duo Chinoiserie also has a personal connection to the Camino de Santiago, having embarked on the journey in 2016. Shortly after their trip, they began transcribing Goss’s work and arranging it for their unique duo.

Here are a few words from the composer about the duo’s arrangement: “I was very intrigued when Bin and Jing asked me if they could arrange my Cantigas de Santiago for guzheng and guitar. The result is a spectacular new version of the piece that adds very many colours and flavours to the music. I couldn’t be more delighted with this version. I particularly love the note bending on the guzheng, the multiple percussion effects, and the highly expressive playing on both instruments. Guitar and guzheng is a magical combination.”

— Kathy Acosta Zavala

When an audience first heard Oriental in Barcelona on April 20, 1890, they had a different experience from the aural journey displayed in this production. Granados wrote this piece within the context of a collection of 12 dances, originally conceiving Danzas Españolas, op. 37, for solo piano. Although, since their publication in 1890, Granados’s danzas have been orchestrated and arranged for other instrumental combinations, in this arrangement, Duo Chinoiserie truly explores the boundaries of the danza’s title.

Reclaiming Spanish 19th-century exoticism, the duo proposes an imaginative instrumentation and inserts elements characteristic of Chinese folkloric music. For instance, when playing the opening theme and its contrasting counterpart in the middle of the piece, Jing employs a technique called zuò yùn, which refers to the use of the left hand to bend the string. The duo’s arrangement also employs a constant hypnotic accompaniment layer that is accentuated by the slower tempo employed. When listening to this piece, it is hard not to be captivated by the feeling of infinity created by Granado’s drifting melodies and the soothing resonance of the guzheng. The interplay between the two instruments adds a distinctive character to the piece.

— Kathy Acosta Zavala

In 1915, De Falla conceived El Amor Brujo as a gitanería for flamenco dancer and singer Pastora Imperio and her Flamenco company. The avant garde theatrical work was premiered at the Lara Theater in Madrid that year with an orchestra of 14 players, receiving mixed reviews from the press. On one side, conservative music critics disagreed with de Falla’s orchestration and the lack of characteristic instruments from Andalusian folklore, such as the castanets and the guitar. On the other, new music critics recognized the work as a new way of conceiving Spanishness. Undeterred by reception issues, following its premiere, de Falla arranged the work for a series of concert versions that include an orchestral version, a ballet, and a piano suite.

Because El Amor Brujo was conceived as a theatrical and dramatic work developed with a production team (a script writer, a set designer, and a costume designer), arrangements of isolated dances and songs from the original work tend to be decontextualized from the gitanería. This is why Duo Chinoiserie presents a vignette of three selections in an arrangement that employs both the flamenco guitar’s idiosyncratic language and the guzheng’s wide array of colors combined with pitch bending to allude to the story’s characters. In “Danza del Terror,” the guzheng becomes instrumental in conveying the feeling of terror with its ability to add mobility and flexibility to each note combined with de Falla’s brusk dynamic changes. In “Canción del Fuego Fatuo,” the guzheng personifies the human voice and interacts sensuously with the guitar’s rasgueados and bravado. Finally, in “Danza Ritual del Fuego,” the guzheng and the guitar majestically come together; the guzheng using yáo zhǐ (tremolo) and zuò yùn (string bending) to bring out the storyline’s primitive and spiritual character and the guitar using its technical capabilities to support, accompany, and lead when necessary.

— Kathy Acosta Zavala

Like Granados’s “Oriental,” the two Debussy selections on this album are pieces that belong to larger collections. The Girl with the Flaxen Hair is the eighth piece in Debussy’s Préludes, book 1, and “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk” is the final movement of Debussy’s Children’s Corner. While both of these collections were composed for solo piano, Duo Chinoiserie’s arrangements bring new musical qualities to these French staples.

In the study of music history, Debussy and his musical output are contextualized within an influential artistic movement that arose in France during the late 19th-century known as Impressionism. What is perhaps not as well known is the fact that this artistic movement was itself influenced by the East, most specifically by Japanese art and woodblock prints. For instance, Debussy was inspired to compose La mer (1905) after seeing Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print of Under the Wave off Kanagawa. With these arrangements, Duo Chinoiserie is able to reconcile the Eastern influence that gave birth to impressionism with the artistic movement itself.

It is curious to ponder what Debussy would have thought about these arrangements. Certainly, his use of the pentatonic scale In The Girl with Flaxen Hair, a scale commonly used in traditional Chinese music, naturally fits the capabilities of the guzheng’s traditional pentatonic tunings. This unexpected connection is brilliantly displayed in the guzheng’s harp-like glissandos and its capabilities to create blurry melodic contours and hazy colors. In “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk,” a piece Debussy dedicated to his daughter, the arrangement maintains the playful character of this ragtime-inspired movement. It also depicts a myriad of characters with its exquisite use of colors, framing a key feature of the movement: Debussy’s mocking of Wagner’s Liebestod leitmotif.

— Kathy Acosta Zavala

Inari is one of the seven Japanese Shintō deities and the namesake of this new work by Japanese composer Yusuke Nakanishi. In Shintō legends, Inari is the god of agriculture and, nowadays, it is still worshipped in many parts of Japan. Similar to saint festivities in the Catholic faith, in Japan, there are many festivals that celebrate Inari. For this multi-movement piece, Nakanishi uses the melodies and rhythms of Matsuri-Bayashi (festival music played by Japanese traditional instruments). The following paragraphs contain Nakanishi’s descriptions of each movement:

“Invocation”
This piece depicts the scene of Yoimiya, the night before the festival begins. It expresses people’s prayers to Inari for a good harvest in a cantabile and mysterious atmosphere in 6/8 time.

“Fox’s dance “
This movement is a scherzando in 2/4 time. It expresses how the fox, a familiar spirit of Inari, is invoked through prayers, turns into a human and dances comically to confuse people.

“Festival”
This piece was composed based on the musical motif of the Danjiri Festival, a festival held in Osaka in autumn to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. From the beginning of the piece, people and danjiri (a float decorated with various objects for a festival) run around the city, and from the middle to the latter half of the piece, it expresses a somewhat fragile and sad depiction of autumn passing by as the festival, which started at Yoimiya, comes to an end.

— Kathy Acosta Zavala

Duo Chinoiserie’s debut album ends with French composer Mathias Duplessy’s Zhong Kui’s Regrets and Zhong Kui’s Journey. Both of these newly commissioned works are inspired by the tragic story of Zhong Kui, a character from Chinese mythology known as a demon hunter and the king of ghosts who is depicted in traditional paintings and art. Although Zhong Kui is a deity still honored in Chinese households to this day as the protector of humankind, his story is one of rejection because of his unsightly appearance, suicide, and the unique bestowment of immortality.

The following paragraphs contain the composer’s brief introduction about the piece:

“What if I, a Frenchman, wrote a Chinese composition? That’s what came to my mind when Duo Chinoiserie asked me for a commission and gave me carte blanche.

“I could not have been more excited to compose for them: their duo is very original (I had never heard the Guzheng mixed with the classical guitar) and very sharp musically thanks to their virtuosity and eclecticism.

“While looking for a source of inspiration a memory surfaced: A few years before, a character from Chinese mythology caught my attention while I was walking in the corridors of a Palace during a tour in Taiwan.

“The character was Zhong Kui, the demon hunter with his ungainly and humorous head and a shaggy beard, his epicurean and charismatic bonhomie, his little bat that follows him in his adventures … but anyhow, there I was, I had found my inspiration!

“I did some research to get a feel for it, then a gimmick (a very short melodic phrase) came to mind, and so, this leitmotif would personify Zhong Kui, like Morricone when he composes for Westerns. All I had to do was to develop and weave a musical story around these few notes. The fast movement depicts Zhong Kui riding in pursuit of demons like a Chinese Western…Adventure, humor, fights and heroism! For the slow movement, on the other hand, I imagined the character at rest, nostalgic, immersed in the reverie of a love lost during his first life. In this second movement, my French compositional style is more present in the harmonies and the form with Ravelian tonalities and Debussy-like chords resonating with romantic lyricism. Finally, in the fast movement, it is the guzheng that has the beautiful part because of its mad virtuosity, which contrasts with the slow movement, since it is the guitar which sings from the bottom of the Chinese mountains.”

— Kathy Acosta Zavala

We would like to take this opportunity to share some of the anecdotes and lessons we learned from this intercultural project with our listeners. Combining two distinct plucked string instruments, one from the East and the other from the West, was in no way an easy task. There is no doubt that collaborating made us better musicians and stronger performers, but in order to do it successfully, we had to spot our instruments’ cultural intersections from a broader perspective. Yes, we are all intrinsically different, but yet, nothing comes from nothing, especially in the context of globalization. Emphasizing the differences can often lead to conflicts, whereas trying to understand and utilize them can achieve something greater than the sum of the parts. We adopt the latter approach for our ensemble and when we arrange music for this combination, we respect our differences first. From there, we try to understand each other’s strengths as well as our limitations while looking for pieces with folkloric traits or aesthetical commonalities between the East and West. In our arrangements, the two instruments maintain a complementary relationship; we highlight each instrument’s unique characteristics and balance their gleaming personalities. Ultimately, we hope the stylish marriage of Eastern and Western musical traditions can transcend any cultural boundary to portray a more inclusive world.

— Kathy Acosta Zavala

The artists want to express their sincere gratitude to the Bolton Guitar Studies at the University of Arizona and the Tucson Guitar Society for partially funding this project, and also to Sérgio Assad, Mathias Duplessy, Stephen Goss, Yusuke Nakanishi, Tom Patterson, Julia Pernet, David Russell, and Marco Tamayo for their mentorship, inspiration, and support for this project.

— Kathy Acosta Zavala

Video

Zhong Kui’s Regrets Official MV