Philadelphia Orchestra premieres piece from ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ composer

Harpist Elizabeth Hainen is part of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Commissions Micro-Festival. Credit: Amanda Stevenson Photography
Harpist Elizabeth Hainen is part of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Commissions Micro-Festival.
Credit: Amanda Stevenson Photography

Classical composer Tan Dun has often drawn on the folk tunes and traditions of his native China. His new piece, “Nu-Shu: The Secret Songs of Women,” is inspired by elements that are both close to home and utterly mysterious for Tan. Nu-Shu is an ancient written language used in secret by women in the composer’s home province of Hunan, inked in the folds of pleated fans or embroidered into clothing. The only known gender-based written language in the world, Nu-Shu is in danger of disappearing, so Tan took a video crew to film six elderly women entrusted with its preservation.

Those videos are one piece of Tan’s new multi-media piece, which will have its U.S. premiere this weekend as part of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Commissions Micro-Festival, which features new solo works for three of the orchestra’s principal musicians. “Nu-Shu” was written for harpist Elizabeth Hainen, whose collaborations with Tan, best known for his soundtrack for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” stretch back nearly a decade.

“It’s been wonderful to explore and learn not only about the particular women in the videos, but to find out the legacy of their language and how it effected women in feudal China,” Hainen says. “They were basically oppressed women, and this language was a wonderful way for them to find their own voice. The strength and motivation of these women a thousand years ago to express themselves and to communicate with each other despite their living conditions is powerful.”

Hainen describes “Nu-Shu” as a “dramatic symphony,” which employs the full range of the harp’s palette and even calls on her to imitate traditional Chinese instruments. “The sounds and ideas that Tan portrays in his music lend themselves to the harp,” she explains. “Tan’s writing is incredibly impressionistic and very organic; there are a lot of colors and effects that can be made on the harp and he really knows how to exploit them.”

The lineup

In addition to Tan’s piece, the festival includes Behzad Ranjbaran’s Persian-inspired “Flute Concerto” for principal flutist Jeffrey Khaner and “Pictures From the Floating World,” written by David Ludwig for bassoonist Daniel Matsukawa and inspired by Japanese wood block prints. The program will be completed by Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances.”

Harpist Hainen, who recently returned from premiering “Nu-Shu” in Shanghai, is enthusiastic about the Orchestra’s micro-festival and its promotion of new music. “I feel as classical musicians it’s really important to play living music by living composers. Especially for an instrument such as the harp, which hasn’t been showcased as much as the piano or violin — we need composers to write for it and give it more attention and more visibility.”

Philadelphia Orchestra Commissions Micro-Festival
Oct. 31-Nov. 2
Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center
300 S. Broad St.
215-893-1999
www.philorch.org



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.