Monday, December 15, 2008

Abigail Washburn in China

From the Sparrow Quartet newsletter:

Abigail is currently in the Chinese province of Sichuan doing an artist residency at Sichuan University. She sent us a note to pass along to you:

Sichuan is great. The food is spicy spicy spicy. I was here for 6 months in 1997. The city has changed drastically just like most of China as it has developed economically. The artists and students I’ve been working with are totally inspiring. I’ve been learning about different aspects of Chinese folk music, specifically the difference between the new folk music and the original folk music and their separate and unique virtues.

I’m also learning about Sichuan Opera. I’ve been lucky enough to befriend one of the lead kungfu and face-changing artists in Chengdu. He has introduced me to the full scope of Chengdu’s Sichuan Opera from the expert and formal ways of the official state troupe to the University training of the new artists to come and the folk opera in the teahouses. I’ve ended up teaching classes to the students and performing alongside them.... my Chinese has been getting a serious tune up.

The other unexpected and very welcome performing I’ve been given the chance to do is in the mountain towns outside of Chengdu that were devastated by the earthquakes of 5/12. My friends at Sichuan Quake Relief asked me to accompany them on trips to set up libraries in the schools. While they set up the libraries I performed for the kids, and then they performed for me.

I’m glad to report that my friend Amanda Kowalski, a rockin’ photographer, is here in Sichuan with me. We are in the process of creating a series of narrative photo and written essays about a few specific forms of artistic expression in China that have given us an intimate view of the evolution of art and tradition in the midst of enormous economic and social changes here. We’ll also have a piece about going up into the earthquake schools. We look forward to sharing it all with you. We’ll keep you posted.

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