Difference and Similarity

Xu Feng Xia

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Difference and Similarity Review

by Thom Jurek

Xu Feng Xia is from the Shanghai province in China, and has studied the traditional and ancient music of her homeland for most of her life. Since she moved to Europe in the early '90s, she has also become part of the improvised music scene as a member of Peter Kowald's Global Village project, and has performed solo concerts on both traditional and ancient Chinese instruments. The freshness of the "new music" world and its impact on her approach to music, as well as her playing, are what make this disc such a treat. There is a passion for the music, it's true, but it is respectful -- a passion that is finding its way into being. Feng Xia's settings for early Chinese poetry (as on "The Great River Flows Eastward" and "Lonely Island") inspired her to use a violin bow on the guzheng, a stringed instrument that is normally plucked. By doing this in the recording sessions, she encountered new combinations of multiple harmonics that extend her pieces tonally. With its flutes and guqin, the track "Only" was influenced by minimalism, primarily Terry Riley's version of the style. She also plays sanxian, a large stringed instrument that sounds like a combination of the banjo and the sitar! In all, this is not a recording that is "exotic" because of its foreign-ness, but it is beautiful and haunting and new. The manner in which the artist approached and executed her compositions -- often spontaneously -- reveals an openness toward improvisation that many Westerners could learn from.

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