Do you think audience reaction will be different in New York and Hong Kong?
Rinde Eckert: Undoubtedly the reaction will be different. It will be a lot more exotic to the New York audience, although it will be a little bit exotic for the Hong Kong audience as well because it’s a different approach. People in Hong Kong will see it as a very modern piece, while people here will see it as an ancient story telling. So they’ll be seeing it from different points of view -- in Hong Kong as a radical departure and in New York as connecting with a tradition. Curiously, those people who come at it from the opera world will share more affinity with the Hong Kong audience than with other New Yorkers. They’ll just see it as an operatic tradition.
Bun-Ching Lam: Hopefully the two traditions will work together instead of opposing each other. In music you shouldn’t really hear two different traditions, you shouldn’t feel oh, that’s western music or oh, that’s eastern music. You shouldn’t be surprised when all of a sudden someone is speaking English and then they’re speaking Chinese because it’s normal [to be bilingual].
One instrument in particular, the qin, is an important symbol in this piece. Why?
Bun-Ching Lam: Qin is a scholar’s instrument and it really represents Chinese Confucian culture. Confucians used to play qin and compose for it. It’s really the most esteemed instrument and more a symbol than an instrument. Wenji’s father was a wonderful scholar and had written books about the qin and played the qin. There were stories that Wenji was very talented on the qin. One story is that her father was playing qin in the next room and Wenji could tell when a string broke [on the qin] and which string it was. The qin symbollically stands for China, and for Chinese culture.
Bun-Ching, you’re trained in Western classical music, but you have composed pieces using Chinese instruments like the pipa before. How is Wenji different from your other works?
Bun-Ching Lam: This is a continuation of my previous work. This is certainly the largest scale I've ever worked on.
Well, we look forward to seeing the finished piece
Interview conducted by Michelle Caswell, Asia Society.