In 1965, her father was sent to work in the country as a doctorAnd in 1968, her mother was held prisoner and forced to work at a Guangzhou hospital while Chen and her siblings were whisked away to be "re-educated" in separate work camps in the #F countryside. Chen, then 15, spent two years hauling rocks, sometimes as much as 100 pounds at a time, to construction sites in the mountains. Work began at 4 a.m. and continued until 8 p.m. Sometimes, camp residents were awakened in the middle of the night to do military drills.
Nonetheless, she continued to play her violin. "Only revolutionarsongs were allowed, so I played the melodies in front of the farmers. I could harmonize. Maybe it was good training for composing: embellishing the melodies."
During this time, she adds, "I see the really poor people. I sehow hard they work. I play the songs for them. I realize how
important it is to have education and civilization. When you havenough food you don't know. You don't realize."
When she was 17, Chen was recalled to the city to serve aconcertmaster for the Beijing Opera, where she began to compose. In 1978, she was admitted to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where she met her husband. During the summers, the two went to the country to study traditional folk music - something that is considered part of a Chinese musical education. "It is part of our training to learn our culture. You go to see the people, you see them play, you hear them sing. Then you know it forever," she says.
fTC In 1986, Chen came to the United States as part of the Center foUnited States-China Arts Exchange at Columbia University, where she received a doctorate in music.
Now her days are filled with a flurry of creativity, classesdeadlines and appearances. She composes, not by computer, but with a pencil and paper. "I can spread out all the papers and estimate the length," she says. "When I read the music I can hear it. I sing it back in my mind."
"There is a sincerity and power and vibrancy in her music," sayFalletta, now director of the Virginia Symphony and the Long Beach (Calif.) Symphony.
"For [musicians who played her work] it was a discovery. Thsounds of her music were different. The colors were different. The phrase structures were different. It was Eastern, but written for a Western orchestra."
Hear the music
To hear excerpts from "The Music of Chen Yi" (New Albion Records, 1996), call Sundial at
410-783-1800 and enter the four- digit code 6128. For other locaSundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2a.
When: Today, 3 p.m.
Where: Gordon Center, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave., Owings Mills
Tickets: $16, $8 senior citizens,
$5 students with identification
When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
Where: Friedberg Hall at Peabody Conservatory, 1 E. MounVernon Place
Tickets: $16, $8 senior citizens, $5 students with identification
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where: Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center
Tickets: $40 box, $30 orchestra, $15 students with identification
Pub Date: 4/26/98