Pioneering multimedia sounds to rock festive concerts

Yao Minji
Pianist Jenny Chai promises a repertoire for Christmas and New Year events at Shanghai Center Theater that reflects the pandemic period.
Yao Minji
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What does purple, orange or red sound like?

What notes would global warming data make on a piano?

What calligraphy strokes would AI recognize from a piano solo?

These questions will be answered in pianist Jenny Chai's two upcoming multimedia concerts at Shanghai Center Theater on Christmas and New Year.

And both will feature pioneering contemporary music by composers like Jaroslaw Kapuscinski, Andy Akiho and Tan Dun.

Based in Shanghai and San Francisco, Chai has studied at Shanghai Conservatory of Music, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and the Cologne University of Music and Dance.

Her mind was set on a concert that would be a strong reflection of the pandemic period when it took her 40 hours to fly back to Shanghai a year ago. And she wanted the repertoire to be contemporary and pioneering.

"Both concerts, 'Humanity First' and 'Synesthesia Playground,' explore the relation between human beings and nature," she explained. "The programs are very pioneering, because I want to bring the latest cutting-edge music to local audiences."

"Humanity First – We Are All in This Together" is updated from "Acqua Alta" (High Water), Chai's multimedia piano concert premiered in the United States featuring the theme of global warming.

The program includes sound and video installations based on global warming data curated by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Ian Fenty who specializes in the effects of global warming on water.

Accompanying the NASA data visualization will be No. 1 and No. 7 of Gyorgy Ligeti's "Musica Ricercata." The Hungarian-Austrian composer is well noted for his work on the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey."

"Music moves people on an emotional level, beyond logic," Chai said. "This is why I believe my program will make an impact on audiences attending the performance."

Pioneering multimedia sounds to rock festive concerts

In "Synesthesia Playground – Color X Music," Chai will explore such emotional impacts from a different perspective – through senses.

"Simply put, it means one can experience the mix of two or more senses," she explained. "For example, to feel music when one sees an image, or to feel the senses of touch, taste or smell when one sees color."

Chai calls herself a typical synesthesia artist and a member of "Journey through the Senses," exploring human sensory experiences and perceptions through collaborations and the works of inspirational artists, performers and presenters.

The concert will also include the works of another synesthesia musician, Andy Akiho, whose "Synesthesia Suite" includes four pieces with color titles – "Purple," "Orange," "Beige" and "Red."

For audiences who find contemporary music weird, Chai compares it to eating spicy food.

"The tolerance increases when you try it more times," she said.

"Classical music masters and masterworks have had enough time and competition so the best are left for audiences to appreciate, but not for contemporary music. As a pianist, I want to recommend good contemporary compositions through my performances."

Pioneering multimedia sounds to rock festive concerts

"Humanity First"

Date: December 25

"Synesthesia Playground"

Date: January 1

Venue: Shanghai Center Theater

Address: 1376 Nanjing Rd W.

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