Kronos Quartet / Wu Man at Barbican

May 11th, 2009

Kronos Quartet / Wu Man (Image credits: Barbican)

I often see events taking place at the Barbican that perk my interest but I usually don’t go as far as buying tickets because I’m never really sure if it’ll actually be my kind of thing or not, not exactly very experimental I know but I’m sure we’re all relatively guilty of not just trying new things every now and then.

Anyway, that’s why we have friends to invite us to things we wouldn’t normally go to, right?

The Barbican isn’t exactly my favourite venue with their strict policy on no food or drink being taken into the theatres, or the fact that they really don’t like you being even remotely late (or maybe that was just Owen nagging?), but it does have a pretty water garden outside at least.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Wu Man and the Kronos Quartet, I’m not heavily into classical music but I am very interested in Chinese and Oriental culture as a whole, including their traditional music which I’ve occasionally heard from various street artists over the years whilst making tracks around London.

There were two performances, the first was Yuanlin Chen – Tribe Amongst Mountains which was supposedly a world premiere, and at first I really didn’t take well to it. There seem to be a lot of contradicting sounds in Chinese inspired music rather than harmonious sounds, and it ended up sounding a bit like late night cat orgies in the car park outside my flat.

Things did improve later in the first performance with Wu Man playing the traditional Chinese instrument, the Pipa, which was really quite impressive and she had such an array of sounds that it could produce from it. I think I now want a Pipa myself, though perhaps I should stick to learning one instrument at a time rather than hoping to be anywhere near as good as people that have practised for most of their life!

The second performance of the evening was Tun Dan – Ghost Opera, in which the movements of the performers are meant to reflect the back and forth between spiritual realms. The piece uses the sounds of water, metal, paper and rock throughout, with combinations of some of these, such as metal being s
craped to produce a strong tone, then placed in water to change the sound.

I was pretty impressed with the general structure of the Ghost Opera and the way all of the performers played off of each other, but there were still a few cat-orgy moments involved.

Fairly confident that I won’t be going to see any other classical concerts for a while, but I’d happily go to see Wu Man perform with her Pipa again in the future as it’s obvious that she is brimming with talent.

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