SINGAPORE CHINESE MUSIC FESTIVAL 2021
01/09 - 30/09
HOME / PROGRAMME
Heaven, Earth, Mankind
This September, The TENG Ensemble is set to release a suite of four collaborative works performed with the esteemed Chinese calligrapher, Grace Chen Liang.
This partnership was first witnessed at The Gift of Music Gala in 2020 and will be made available to the public audience for the first time, alongside an extended play (EP) release of the same title. The first movement, Heaven, will debut on TENG’s social media channels on Saturday 4 September 2021 at 12pm – with the subsequent releases occurring at 12pm every Saturday after. Audience can expect an immersive multi-sensory experience as TENG’s signature sound moves with the ebb and flow of Chen Liang’s immaculate brush strokes.
4, 11, 18, 25.9.2021 (Sat)
Heaven, Earth, Mankind and Unity
Composed by Chow Jun Yi / Music Produced by Huang Peh Linde
featuring Calligrapher Grace Chen Liang
Based on one of the most influential Tang poems Spring Blossoms on a Moonlit Night《春江花月夜》 by Chinese poet Zhang Ruoxu. Describing ethereal scenery, the poem has inspired numerous artworks. This composition also plays with the concept of Yun (韵), an aesthetic fluidity that is often found in traditional Chinese art. Yun is personified in this piece through the abundance of freedom given to the musician to direct the course and flow of the music using invigorating solos. These sections act as a juxtaposition to meter oriented parts in the piece, creating contrasting sections of tension and release throughout, as though depicting floating cosmos that have neither defined shape nor form. The line written by Chen Liang here was an excerpt from the original poem (月照花林皆似霰), which illustrates the view of a curving stream within the meadow and moonshine illuminating the grass like a layer of snow – emphasising the beauty and harmony that exists between the heavens and the earth.
This piece drew inspiration from the traditional Chinese folk tune Zhi Xin Ke《知心客》which can be heard in the Erhu solo. The guitar and the cello form the two unlikely Western instruments that lead the arrangement that sings about the sweetness of nature. The piece features a melodic structure that evokes the feeling of meeting a kindred spirit or loved one. Inspired by the melody, Chen Liang birthed the words The Heart Dances and Leap (心飞舞) to encapsulate the feeling of one’s heart leaping out in joy.
The Erhu solo piece written by Hua Yanjun, commonly known as Ah Bing, Reflection of the Moon on Erquan Spring《二泉映月》is the melodic inspiration for the third piece of the suite. He became a blind and destitute busker in the later stages of his life, and wrote the piece to illustrate his grief and bitterness due to the severe challenges that came in his life. The thematic material of the piece is split into three phrases; the first phrase is written to be soft and soothing, the second illustrating agitation and aggression, while the third and final phrase evokes feelings of agony and utter despair.
TENG portrays its signature fusion style by incorporating a jazz style of Blues into the piece. In the West, Blues are sung laments and the combination of the musical styles, add to the fragility of mankind portrayed in TENG’s interpretation. The fluctuating movements in this piece are profound and philosophical which guides the listener to close their eyes and find the depiction of mountains, waters, skies and earth within the music.
Chen Liang creates Jing Guan (静观) with her left hand, which embodies the contemplation amid an ever-changing modern world through rustic brushstrokes. The work presents the idea of guidance by stillness (静) and observation (观) through the hustle and bustle of mankind in modern day.
An original composition written for the entire TENG Ensemble. Unity explores the various ebbs and flows of human energy that may take on various forms. This composition drew its inspiration from the legendary Chinese martial Pipa solo, Ambush《十面埋伏》.
The piece was based on the textural aggressiveness of Ambush and unifies the ensemble through the rhythmic, harmonic and melodic elements of the music. The composer uses polyrhythms, constant meter changes, as well as the constant passing of melodic lines between different instruments to show the co-operation within the ensemble. These challenging characteristics make the piece technically demanding and virtuosic. The effects from the electronics enhances the intensity of the music and showcases a fusion of both traditional and contemporary elements. To Chen Liang, this piece encapsulates the unification of both the musical and calligraphic worlds. The energetic and tenacious nature thus inspired Chen Liang to brush the words Endlessness (生生不息).
At first glance, Ambush can be interpreted as a state in war, but from a broader perspective, it can also be the representation of the never ending cycle of collisions between the old and the new. The cycle of growth and development and reincarnation aligns with the philosophy of Laozi’s Dao De Jing (道德经).
The Teng Ensemble
The TENG Ensemble is a critically acclaimed Singaporean Chinese fusion music group that bridges between cultures East and West, boasting musical influences from both the traditional and the contemporary.
As a collective of music educators, scholars and award-winning instrumentalists, the Ensemble’s performances have been a staple in Singapore’s arts scene since 2009. At the 2015 National Day Rally, The TENG Ensemble was described by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as ‘creating something uniquely Singapore’. The group has performed at events such as the ASEAN Tourism Forum, TEDxPetaling Street, Youth Olympic Games, Shanghai World Expo, Singapore Day in Melbourne, George Town Festival and Singapore International Jazz Festival.
The Ensemble's first music album titled Eight (Ba) was released in 2013. This was followed by Stories From an Island City in 2016 and Heirlooms in 2019 - both of which were awarded 4.5 out of 5 stars by The Straits Times and highly regarded by several other media outlets, while Stories From an Island City was ranked number 1 on Hong Kong’s iTunes World Music chart.
TENG was featured on numerous Singaporean and overseas media such as The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao, Channel NewsAsia, and more; and have performed at major events such as the Shanghai World Expo, the Youth Olympic Games, and the President’s Star Charity. At the 2015 National Day Rally, TENG was described by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as “creating something uniquely Singapore. One of our videos, The Little White Boat, was also shared by him on Facebook. To date, TENG has over 40,000 follows on Facebook, over 5,000 followers on TikTok, over 3,500 followers on Instagram, and over 8 million collective views (Facebook & YouTube) on online music videos.
Cello: Gerald Teo
Erhu: Darrel Xin
Guitar: Leonard Goh
Guzheng: Johnny Chia
Keyboard: Joel Chua
Pipa: Samuel Wong
Sheng: Yang Ji Wei
Voice: Phua Ee Kia