Metta – Min Xiao-Fen
“Metta” is a Buddhist word meaning “loving-kindness.” The music on this album was written for two Chinese historical silent films, “Romance of the Fruit Peddler” and “Romance of the Western Chamber.”
People often inquire about my journey into jazz, the significance of creating sound-tracks for Chinese silent films, my music-making process, and how I came to collaborate with master Middle Eastern percussionist River Guerguerian. Before traveling to America, I began my career as principal pipa soloist with the Nanjing Traditional Music Orchestra, where my focus was entirely on traditional music. After relocating to New York City in 1996, I began collaborating with a wide range of superb composers and improvisors. This path paved the way for “Mao, Monk and Me,” my personal take on Thelonious Monk’s music.
Delving deeper, I uncovered a fascinating period in the mid-1930s, where a vibrant musical exchange between China and America brought Kansas City Swing to Shanghai. Trumpeter Buck Clayton and Chinese composer Li Jinhui both played pivotal roles. This exploration unearthed hidden silent films from Shanghai’s Golden Age.Recognizing the neglect of these cinematic and musical treasures due to the Cultural Revolution, I felt compelled to breathe new life into them. I aimed to share these historical gems, along with a rich tapestry of Chinese musical instruments, with a wider audience.
In 2013, I created “From Harlem to Shanghai and Back,” a tribute to the music of Clayton and Li, with my Blue Pipa Trio. In 2018, guitarist Rez Abbasi and I premiered “White Lotus,” my score for the classic 1934 silent film “The Goddess,” at Roulette in New York.
The Smithsonian Institution commissioned me in 2023 to compose soundtracks for two historical Chinese silent films, “Romance of the Fruit Peddler” and “Romance of the Western Chamber.” I premiered both projects with River at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Regarding the scores for these three films, my approach transcends the conventional notion of background music or accompaniment. In my mind, it’s a vibrant trio: the visual along with two musicians. I use an array of instruments to create sound into integral characters, evoking narratives, emotions and intensity. The music supports each element yet stands on its own. Audiences often mention being engrossed in our performance rather than focusing on the films. When I was commissioned by the Smithsonian, inviting River was a natural choice. His masterful skills, creative sounds and exotic rhythms beautifully complemented my scores. I am thankful for his brilliant contributions to this project.
— Min Xiao-Fen
Min Xiao-Fen: pipa, ruan, sanxian, finger piano, sound effects, and voice
River Guerguerian: Middle Eastern and Indian frame drums, kanjira talking drums, berimbau, doumbek, Chinese gongs, hand-pan, didgeridoo, rain stick, drum set, and voice
Executive Producer: Tatsu Aoki
Composed, arranged and created by Min Xiao-Fen
Recording Engineer: Josh Blake
Photo of Min Xiao-Fen and River Guerguerian: Lynne Harty Photography
Graphic Design: Al Brandtner, Brandtner Design
UPC barcode: 708096011824
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