Go out and listen to something…

August 6, 2018

Echoes of History: Naxi Music in Modern China

Filed under: China, Autumn in Yunnan — burnett @ 7:26 am

While preparing the Autumn in Yunnan project, I am benefiting from the research underlying “Echoes of History: Naxi Music in Modern China”. Already 20 years since publication, this infinitely detailed book helps the reader drill down into the seemingly infinite levels of Chinese history, geography, culture, and tides of political and governmental entities. Ethnomusicologist Helen Rees focuses on the Naxi minority (or tribe), their absorption of Han music, and the general environment in Yunnan province that surrounds the tribal cultures of southwest China. The challenges she faced are not unlike those seen by Bela Bartok in eastern Europe between 1900-1910. In fact, Bartok decried the pollution of ethnic musics, the misrepresentation, and anti-historical performances in the name of ethnic music throughout Europe. Prof. Rees offers as good an explanation as any of how the Han majority assimilated and controlled the minority cultures, beginning in ancient times.

December 6, 2013

Shenzhen Grand Theater

Filed under: china tour 13, China — burnett @ 2:34 am

Thanks to our friend Li Ning Guang in Beijing, I had the good fortune to appear in concert in Shenzhen with the fine erhu player, Meng Xiao Xu. Aside from being a superb performer, she is a professor at Jing Hai Conservatory in Guangzhou. I included Wayne Shorter’s Wild Flower in the program, and she and I played Bei Ge of Liu Tianhua and her performing of Spain of Corea/Rodriguez was exactly what the composer had in mind.

Aside from the concert, my favorite area in Shenzhen was the art district. In this area, you can get any masterpiece copied. This may not seem like such a great thing until you actually see the copies. I was tempted to grab a few Van Goghs at $25 apiece. They were beautifully textured and would look good in my living room.

April 27, 2013

Guizhou University

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 12, China — burnett @ 3:33 pm

The focus of this trip was the visit to Guizhou University, in Guiyang. Guiyang, located in the far southern mountains of China, sits at 3000 ft above sea level and enjoys cool breezes and very clean air year round.  The university is in a sylvan and mountainous setting.   Professor Jian Feng Wang, Dean of the School of Fine Arts, was my host.  My assistant and companion for the time at the school was the linguistics grad student, Xu Tao.  Xu Tao was a marvelous guide, and a great conversationalist on all subjects from culture, language, international affairs, and human nature.  Aside from getting me from one place to the next, he took me on a guided tour of the nearby medieval village of Qinq Yan in the nearby mountains.

The final concert included a marvelous performance of Chick Corea’s Spain  featuring the wonderful erhu soloist Ren Jie.  She understand this piece beautifully and we put it together in a single rehearsal.

Spain   Ren Jie, erhu; Burnett Thompson, piano

photo:  Guida Professor, Xu Tao, Liu Xuan, Professor Wang Jian Feng, B.T., Ren Jie

April 25, 2013

“Suite Shanghai Nights” at JZ Club

Filed under: music, travel, China Tour 12, China — burnett @ 7:05 am

My visits to Shanghai inevitably focus on my latest compositions, in this case the “Suite Shanghai Nights”  collection.  I wrote this specifically with saxophonist Wilson Chen in mind.  His superb work on the Shakespeare Sonnet Song Cycle is still ringing in my ears, and I wanted to take things a step further.  Here are the videos, recorded from the April 4 performance.  Wang Bai Ling, soprano; Wilson Chen, sax; EJ Parker, bass; Chris Trczinski, drums, Burnett Thompson, composer & pianist.

Suite Shanghai Nights Part II
In a Far Away Land 在那遥远的地方:
Suite Shanghai Nights  XXX
Suite Shanghai Nights Part IV

Guizhou Ethnic University

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 12, China — burnett @ 6:38 am

Many thanks to Professor Jian Feng Wang for arranging a visit to Guizhou Ethnic University in Guiyang on April 7 and 8, 2013.  The encounter included an impromptu singing and performance session with a crowd of students, and then an official concert.  Certainly the highlight of the concert was an interlude presentation by the students of a folk song in full regalia.  The university is in a beautiful setting in the wetlands bordered by sharply rising mountains on all sides.   Erhu faculty member Chen Jia and I collaborated on  良宵 by Liu Tian Hua刘天华。It is hard to explain the warm welcome I received from both students and faculty and I hope I can spend more time with them in the future.

December 10, 2012

Wuhan: CCNU and Wuhan University: the Concerts

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 11, China — burnett @ 10:17 am

Back at a favorite spot, Central China Normal University, followed by a concert at Wuhan University.  The students at CCNU were absolutely fabulous, and we had the good fortune of two performances of the same program, first at CCNU, then Wuhan Univ. Listen to some outtakes:

Wang Yingtao, guzheng; Burnett Thompson, Piano临安遗恨 Leave Regrets in Lin An.

Yang Guang, dizi;Burnett Thompson, Piano 牧民新歌  Song from the Countryside

July 13, 2012

Ningbo revisited

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 10, China — burnett @ 8:58 am


A reprise of the Nov. 2011 Ningbo concert took place on April 6, 2012.  Included in this concert was the debut of Zhang Dawei on double bass.  Dawei, a piano student at the university,  took the jazz class and learned the blues in 3 days, having never even touched the double bass.  With the aid of the irrepressible Tom Smith, director of the jazz program at Ningbo University, the three of us fleshed out the “Butternut Blues”.

Again the remarkable Wang Lei Lei sang two folk songs and gave an unforgettable performance of “Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup”…but in Chinese and French, likely a first for this song.  Wang Jian Qiao and I put together a fresh look at a traditional Chinese piece, Chu Yue Xiao Ge (New Year’s Song) with a visit from the Beatles “Norwegian Wood”。  We were also joined again by Song Wen Yue for “Spain” and “Jiang He Shui”.

Yunnan Folk Song
Folk Song
Darling, Je Vous A’ime Beaucoup Wang Leilei, vocal; Burnett Thompson, piano
Chu Ye Xiao Ge/Norwegian Wood  Wang Qian Bao, erhu; Burnett Thompson, piano
Jiang He Shui Song  Wen Yue, erhu;  Burnett Thompson, piano
Butternut Blues   Tom Smith, trombone; Burnett Thompson, piano; Zhang Dawei, bass

November 29, 2011

Ningbo Concert: Nov 25 2011 Complete Recording

Filed under: music, China Tour 9, China — burnett @ 4:53 am

Burnett Thompson and Friends in Concert
Ningbo University
November 25, 2011
*Wang Yi Ni, vocal ;  Wang Lei Lei, vocal, *Wang Jian Qiao, erhu; *Song Wen Yue, erhu; Tom Smith, trombone and Jazz Department Director; *You Peng Wei, *Zhou Yu, *Xu Ying Ying, percussion  (* students at Ningbo University) 

Listen to the entire concert:

Take 5                                          composer: Dave Brubeck                               
The Little Sack                  Wang Yi Ni, vocal; Tom Smith, Trombone; Trad Chinese melody, arr. Burnett Thompson
Er Quan Ying Yue                           Song Wen Yue, erhu; Tom Smith, Trombone;   Composer: (A Bing) Hua Yanjun
Take the A Train                             Composer: Duke Ellington
Gentle Rain                                    Wang Jian Qiao, erhu;  Tom Smith, Trombone; Composer: Luis Bonfa
Shakespeare: Sonnet 66                 Wang LeiLei, vocal; Song Wen Yue, erhu; Composer: Burnett Thompson
I’ve got it Bad and that Ain’t Good   Tom Smith, Trombone; Composer: Duke Ellington
Shakespeare: Sonnet 154               Wang LeiLei, vocal; Song Wen Yue, erhu; Composer: Burnett Thompson
Groovin’ High                                 Tom Smith, Trombone; Composer: Dizzy Gillespie
Nice Work if you can Get it               Composer: George Gershwin
Sai Ma                                           Wang Jian Qiao, erhu; Trad. Chinese melody arr. Burnett Thompson
When the Saints Go Marching          Trad. American Melody
Georgia on My Mind                         Hoagy Carmichael

2 weeks at Ningbo University

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 9, China — burnett @ 12:10 am


I met Yu Hui at Shenyang Normal University last year, and after his arrival as Dean of the School of Arts at Ningbo University, he suggested I come to the school and participate in his new jazz program.  Hence   two weeks of teaching, rehearsals, lectures,  and performances, including the “American Jazz Music Week” (美国爵士音乐周).  The Jazz week included 6 performances, including a student concert, a couple of presentations by the remarkable trombonist Professor Tom Smith, my own lecture on Chinese & American music histories, and concluded with a big concert hosted by your truly.  From a personal perspective, this was one of the biggest highlights of 9 tours in China, and I have Yu Hui to thank for this rewarding experience. 

My goal as expressed to Yu Hui was to present the jazz piano course in Mandarin Chinese.  He in turn set up a daily two hour class, followed by two hours of rehearsals every day. I conducted these sessions entirely in Chinese, with the generous assistance of the students who helped me with the technical vocabulary and general pronunciations. 

The highlight of the trip was my Introduction to Jazz Piano Class, which included 12 students.  We met every day for 2 hours.  A close second was the two-hour daily rehearsals with a pair of erhu players and two singers. 

Above:  Yu Hui;  jazz piano class: 张大卫,朱佳,周琳, 周舒怡, 尤鹏玮,聂小涵,温馨,罗洁,,袁金宝,温馨 周余 徐莹莹, B.T.,  not present: 李化阳; Prof. Yang, translator Xin Chen, Prof. Zhong, Tom Smith, translator Ke Jin, B.T.; Concert: Wang Lei Lei, B.T., Song Wen Yue

May 1, 2011

Shanghai: My Landiao

Filed under: Art, travel, China Tour 7, China — burnett @ 9:54 pm

On Wukang Lu you can find a small entrance, easy to miss, that houses the boutique of Lan She, proprietor of My Landiao.  Lan She  greets her customers as guests and numerous friends stop by just to say hello. A native of Guizhou, Lan She oversees a  collection of Guizhou clothing, handmade paper, and stunning handcrafted silver jewelry.  Her store is as much museum as storefront.  She introduced me to music from Guizhou, a very unusual vocal style, with unusual falling glissandos.  The music and artifacts may be found at www.mylandiao.com .

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