Wu Man: A Night in the Tang Dynasty Gardens

Wu Man holding pipa

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A Night in the Tang Dynasty Gardens

2:00 PM talk with Anthony Cheung

For more than ten years in the 1960s and 70s, the doors of universities and conservatories across China were closed as the government suppressed political and cultural expression during the great Cultural Revolution. But in 1978, when the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing reopened its doors, a young 13-year-old pipa player named Wu Man (吴蛮) was there, ready to audition and embrace the cultural heritage that had been absent from her early childhood.

Now, four decades later, Wu has become the world’s premier pipa virtuoso, regarded for “[changing] the history of the instrument” (Boston Globe) by not only revitalizing its role in traditional music but by giving it a place in contemporary music as well, premiering hundreds of new works and collaborating across genres with renowned musicians around the globe.

On October 13, Wu brings together a brilliant ensemble with Yazhi Guo, suona and Chinese percussion; Kaoru Watanabe, taiko and Japanese flute; and Tim Munro, Western flute. The program, A Night in the Gardens of the Tang Dynasty, explores music from the Golden Age of China, featuring both gorgeous songs recovered from manuscripts of the period and a newly commissioned work inspired by that music.

Before the performance on the Logan Center stage, Wu joins UChicago Assistant Professor Anthony Cheung in a talk about her life, instrument, and music. She will also join an audience for a screening and discussion of the documentary Discovering a Musical Heartland: Wu Man’s Return to China on Monday, October 14 at the UChicago International House.

Presented by the University of Chicago Presents and the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies with generous support from a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center Grant, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Chinese Fine Arts Society of Chicago. This engagement is further supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from the Illinois Arts Council and the Crane Group.