MusicUnitesUS presents: PAN project, an exploration of musical improvisation

A floutist plays at part of the PAN project

PAN project co-founder Gamin Kang during a performance.

This article originally appeared in the spring issue of State of the Arts:

Continuing its exploration of cross-cultural musical improvisation, MusicUnitesUS presents the international PAN Project in residence at Brandeis from February 27 to March 4.

“PAN Project draws on the rich intercultural music traditions of East Asian instrumental performance, ritual and theater,” said PAN co-founder Jeff Roberts,PhD'08. “From there, we add modern influences, drawing on improvisation, Western composition and multimedia technology.”

The ensemble’s name comes from the Korean folk genre p’ansori, which means to gather or come together. “P’ansori is an intense, all-out expression.” said Judith Eissenberg, MusicUnitesUS director and professor of the practice of music. “The members of PAN Ensemble are masters of the most expressive Asian instruments; the combined effect is sonically gorgeous.”

The central importance of nature in Chinese, Korean and Japanese traditions inspires the multimedia work that accompanies the ensemble’s performances. Video projections of movement in nature ― wind on grass, moonlight on water — are controlled by sensors worn by the musicians, changing in response to their movements and also to the pitch and vibrations of their instruments. Field recordings of rain and found objects provide additional texture that is in turn emulated by the ensemble.

The artists will visit classes across campus, open to the public for the residency, encompassing subjects from anthropology to literature to art history. A concert will be held March 4 at 8 p.m. at Slosberg Music Center with a pre-concert talk at 7 p.m. Tickets are available online, by phone at 781-736-3400, or at the Shapiro Campus Center Box Office.

About the ensemble:

Co-founder Gamin Kang, known professionally as gamin, is one of Korea’s most celebrated performers of the wind instruments piri, taepyeongso and saengwhang. She has received the UNESCO World Heritage Center designation of “yujisa” in piri court music and daechita. Yoo Young-Dae, music director of the National Changgeuk Company, describes gamin’s music as “free-spirited in restraint, delicate in bluntness, and sorrow in bliss.”

Co-founder Jeff Roberts, PhD ’08, is a professor at the University of Alberta in the departments of music and East Asian studies. As a performer, Roberts improvises and collaborates on Chinese guqin and guitar.

Percussionist Woonjung Sim is the winner of the World Music Award (2009) and Experimental Spirit Award (2010) of the 21st-Century Korean Music Project Competition.

Kaoru Wantanabe is one of the top taiko drum masters in the world, a master of Japanese flutes, a jazz flutist, and a collaborator with some of the top ensembles in the world, including Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble.

Wang Ying-chieh is her generation’s most celebrated player of the two-stringed ehru. A former principal in the Taipei Chinese Orchestra, she teaches at the National Taiwan University of Arts.

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