My Humble Understanding of Shen Yun Music
I was fortunate enough to have attended Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall in New York, on Oct. 14. On my way back home, the first, and strongest feeling was, I have to “craft” a new term to describe what I just heard, and the new term should be “Shen Yun Music”.
Actually the term “Shen Yun Music” has already been used before, at least at the Shen Yun website, so what do I mean by “crafting”?
Well, what I really want to express is, in the music, art and academic communities, “Shen Yun Music” should be treated as a special term; and in the music dictionary, music history books, and music courses in school, “Shen Yun Music” should be added in as a new term, a new chapter and a new course, or area of study.
Why do I say these? Since I watched Shen Yun Performing Arts for the first time in 2007 in Australia, in the past 11 years, I have been following and watching it, or attending Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra concert for at least dozens of times. Time and again, I wanted to write articles to express how I felt, but human languages always failed me…
This time, when I sat in Carnegie Hall again, and melt into the music, trying to catch every note and every moment, I finally realized: Shen Yun Music is just Shen Yun Music. It is not western; it’s not eastern. It’s not classical; it’s not modern either. Then how do we describe it? We have to call it “Shen Yun Music”!
For people who have listened to “Shen Yun Music”, they must immediately understand what this phrase means. However, it could be difficult to explain the connotation of “Shen Yun Music” to those who have never enjoyed it. I can only try my best to express a little bit about how I felt when I listened to Shen Yun Music.
For me, the most notable nature, or quality of Shen Yun Music is that it blends the two systems of Western and Eastern music so well that the result comes out as a new system: Shen Yun Music. It is “ancient yet innovation, soothing yet powerful”. It is so under control and fair that even at the climax and most exciting moment, what the audience feels is the sudden lighting up of the Buddha’s worlds, instead of the slightest deviation to anywhere else.
Oftentimes, I felt that my physical body had disappeared, while my soul and spirit had become one with the music. The feeling was so wonderful, pure, virtuous, bright and moving…I couldn’t help imagining: If human beings could immerse themselves in such pure and wonderful music and moments, there would definitely be no killing, no robbing, no ugly fights, no evil actions in the world whatsoever!
There were two pieces that impressed me very much in terms of the uniqueness of Shen Yun Music. One was “Mongolian Bowls”. When the music started, you could see that it was erhu and violins moving. However, what you heard was the sound of matouqin, which immediately took you to the vast grassland of Mongolia. You could even smell the fragrance of the Mongolian milk tea.
It was the same with the “Tibetan Drums”. When the music started, you saw western brass trumpets moving. However, what you heard was the special sound of Tibetan radung, which immediately made you feel like standing on top of those sacred Tibetan mountains, and very close to the clear blue sky and pure white clouds of the Tibetan Plateau.
Another number that impressed me very much was the “Plum Blossom” sung by soprano Haolan Geng.
“Plum Blossom” is a very famous Chinese song in Taiwan. The best-known version was sung by Teresa Teng, a Taiwanese pop singer, who sang this song in a very tender and sweet way.
Shen Yun’s soprano Haolan Geng sang it in a totally different way. Accompanied by a full symphony orchestra, Haolan Geng’s magnificent “Plum Blossom” moved me to tears for many times.
I remembered once a Shen Yun audience member said that Haolan Geng’s voice was so powerful that it could break glasses. When I first heard her singing in Lincoln Center in 2012, the word “metal” somehow appeared in my mind. It might sound a little bit unreasonable to connect metal with human voice. But the connection just “naturally” came to my mind. I guess it was because I felt that her vocal cords and voice were so strong that they were as indestructible as metal!
This time, however, when I listened to her “Plum Blossom”, I no longer thought about “metal”, or anything else, because I was completely carried away.
When she majestically sang:
“Plum blossom, plum blossom, you cover the earth
You bloom all the better with winter’s chill
You persevere, as we do
Symbolizing the majestic spirit of China”
What came to my mind were the majestic Chinese history of thousands of years long, the numerous righteous and courageous heroes in those thousands of years who made the history, as well as the Falun Dafa disciples in China, who have been bearing astonishing evil and crimes with their flesh bodies in the past 18 plus years, who have never given in even one inch’s ground amidst the overwhelming landslide of human’s morality and standards, who thus successfully stopped and turned the tide around with their unchangeable and indestructible will as strong as diamond, who are willing to sacrifice their lives for others with grand compassion and forbearance…
I also remembered the poem by Mr. Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Dafa:
“In the chaotic world, like pure lotus flowers—
plum blossoms, a hundred million
Cold winds only accentuate their beauty
The interminable snowfall and rain
are the tears of gods,
Who look longingly for the plum blossoms’ return”
With all these emotions and pictures running through my mind, I cried again and again, and deeply experienced what was contained within “Shen Yun Music”…
Even when the traditional western music numbers, which people are very familiar with, were played by Shen Yun, they sounded greatly different. They were more peaceful, more beautiful, fairer, more disciplined and controlled.
And this reminded me of the difference between diamond and graphite. The two substances are both composed of pure carbon, and their chemical formula is also the same “C”. However, while diamond is the hardest natural substance, graphite is so soft that it is used in pencils and as a solid lubricant.
My point here is: There is a Way, or a Law in the universe. Only beings or things that follow the Way, and discipline themselves according to the Way, can last long, and emit pure and different energy that accords with the Way.
And that are exactly the feelings Shen Yun Music gives to me. I could feel that everything with Shen Yun Music, from the music composition, music arrangement, the understanding of music, the coordination and cooperation between different parts, different instruments, different musicians, as well as the coordination and cooperation between the conductor and the entire orchestra… were in sync with the Way, with the Law of the universe.
After three encore pieces, the audience giving a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall, New York City, on Oct.14, 2017.
Further more, I believe the following introduction in Shen Yun program book reveals a very important aspect as well: “Shen Yun’s performers draw their spiritual inspiration from the meditation discipline and self-improvement practice called Falun Dafa. Also known as Falun Gong, it is rooted in China’s ancient spiritual traditions, and its practitioners strive to live by the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. The performers you are seeing today incorporate study and meditation into their rigorous daily training. You can see the result in the genuine joy with which they perform.”
Yes, at the end of the day, musical instruments are controlled and played by musicians; and that’s what makes Shen Yun performers so distinctly different. Because of their own cultivation and assimilation to the Law of the universe, what they carry within, what they emit, what they can display and depict on the stage, are all very different. That’s why people can feel the different energy.
Therefore, that is also why I do believe that the music and art community, as well as the music critics should follow closely what Shen Yun is doing in order to catch up with what it has already created and brought to the world.