Sheng: Never Far Away

Sheng: Never Far Away
© Alex Caoh
For Bright Sheng, being Chinese-American greatly influences not only his aesthetic, but his entire worldview. The profound ties he has with his native culture and the inalienable bond he has developed with his adopted country have allowed him to become “an innovative composer who merges diverse musical customs in works that transcend conventional aesthetic boundaries” (MacArthur Foundation). This melding of worlds is central to Sheng’s art. To Sheng, this duality provides an opportuntiy to see the world through a unique set of eyes.

In his new harp concerto, Never Far Away, to be premiered 24 October by the San Diego Symphony, Sheng draws on a connection that exists at the crossroads of language and music. Music, like language, can develop hybrids — as can be seen in border cultures or other porous societies, like colonies. At these cultural intersections, certain evolutions develop both musically and linguistically from the co-mingling. For Sheng, this phenomenon can be applied to his compositional approach, “an evolving musical style, fused from several different ones, yet expressive enough for me to comfortably and effectively communicate my musical thoughts with the listener.”

As Sheng expresses in his program notes to the upcoming premiere, “if your native culture is still the inspiration of your work, you are never far away from home.”

Jahja Ling leads the San Diego Symphony in the 24 October premiere with Yolanda Kondonassis on harp. Subsequent premieres through 2009 include performances by co-commissioners the Dallas Symphony, Grand Rapids Symphony and the Oberlin Conservatory Symphony.