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New Music from the Silk Route

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New Music from the Silk Route

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The trans-Eurasian trade routes collectively known as the Silk Route (or Silk Road) served as conduits not only of commerce but also of cultural exchange, which included music, musicians and musical instruments. Ancient friezes, frescoes, and sculpture show instruments resembling lutes, flutes, and zithers that exist today in a variety of local forms across Eurasia – evidence both of their antiquity and of the broad diffusion of music and musicians along the historical Silk Route.

Seven hundred years after Marco Polo, ‘Silk Road music’ has emerged as a potent metonym for myriad forms of crosscultural musical fusion and hybridity that are presumed to have occurred along the historical Silk Route – ‘presumed’ because, while the trans-Eurasian migration of music and musical instruments is irrefutable, the time scale in which processes of musical acculturation, assimilation, and hybridisation historically unfolded was in fact typically measured in centuries. The notion that Silk Route-era musical fusion emerged from spontaneous cross-cultural jam sessions – a model of intercultural musical creativity widely embraced by present-day purveyors of ‘Silk Road music’ – is very likely as historically inaccurate as it is culturally alluring.

Yet whatever the extent of imagination, fantasy, and whimsy in contemporary music inspired by the Silk Route, the abiding desire of musicians from different cultures to seek artistic common ground remains a powerful and poignant symbol of our shared humanity. The artists featured in this evening’s concert have earned an honoured place in the front ranks of such musical seekers. All of these artists have immersed themselves deeply in one or another historical musical tradition defined by canonical styles, repertoires, pedagogy, and performance techniques rooted in a sense of place and cultural identity. At the same time, in looking backward toward older, and, in some cases, truly archaic musical forms, this evening’s performers illuminate one of the universal axioms of artistic avant-gardes: that tradition can serve as an invaluable compass for exploring new forms of artistic consciousness and creativity inspired, but not constrained, by the past.

This evening’s performance represents music making by artists grounded in the present whose musical journeys have zigzagged back and forth between Europe and North America, Asia, and the Middle East, and between engagement with forms of classical, folk, jazz, and contemporary concert music. In so doing, they have created a body of work that is at once seamless, surprising, and utterly original.

Performance Years: 2019

Artists in this Performance:

Artist Name Country of Origin Instruments
Abbos Kosimov Uzbekistan
Andrea Piccioni Italy
Aziza Davronova Uzbekistan
Basel Rajoub Syria
Feras Charestan Syria
Sirojiddin Juraev Tajikistan
Wu Man China