Features and Charm of the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra
(Minghui.org) As the tour performances of the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra (SYSO) will continue in a few weeks, some practitioners have presented questions regarding the performance’s arrangement style and system. Given my professional background and personal understanding, I would like to answer some of these questions.
Unique Arrangement Method
Before going into details, we need to keep in mind that our mission is to revive 5,000-year-long divine Chinese culture. That would involve Chinese ethnic musical instruments. Shen Yun is the first organization to bring traditional Chinese instruments and a Western symphony into harmony. Other orchestras can perform only solo or concerto, but not symphony.
This is because the pipa and erhu are unique, and cannot be replaced with traditional symphony instruments. In other words, their sounds are very special and cannot be covered by other instruments. That makes it very challenging to combine them with instruments used in the symphony orchestra. Shen Yun was successful in this because of its exclusive arrangement method and system. That is, the traditional arrangement method needed to be adjusted to accommodate this.
For example, there are special requirements that allow instruments to work with erhu or pipa. It is like cooking—not everything can be mixed together to make a dish. Only ingenious selections of various components will yield dishes with great appearance, smell, and taste. Shen Yun is unique when compared with other symphony orchestras, which is something we should emphasize and recommend while promoting the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra.
In my opinion, the guqin (ancient zither) and guzheng (the Chinese zither) are not used by Shen Yun, probably because they can be replaced by the harp. Similarly, xiao (a Chinese vertical end-blown flute) and the bamboo flute are not used because they can be substituted by the flute and piccolo. Also, the trumpet can be used instead of suona. In fact, if musical notes overlap too much in the same frequency band, the additive effect would push the volume too high, resulting in unbalanced melodies.
In music arrangements, a standard symphony does not use plucked instruments, such as the pipa. Guitar is somewhat similar, but it is not part of a symphony orchestra. Erhu is often referred to as two-string violin, but its melody is very different from violin. Nonetheless, it goes well with stringed instruments while offering a unique tone.
Moreover, erhu can play solo, duet, ensemble, or concerto. With erhu, pipa, and traditional Chinese percussion instruments such as gu (drum), luo (gong), muyu (wooden fish), and qing (sounding stone), they not only introduce Chinese ethnic character to the music, but also harmonize and complement classic Western symphony music. This makes the combined melody richer and more expressive, and has greater energy.
In addition, when selecting these musical instruments, Master fully considered factors related to the traditional Chinese culture. For example, how the Five Music Notes, Five Elements, and five internal organs connect and influence each other. Plus the music played by the orchestra has the energy of Falun Dafa. Upon being accepted and absorbed by the human body, it can reach deeper into the soul and offer salvation.
Therefore, when listening to the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra, we should not limit ourselves to the formats of classic Western symphony or Chinese music. Rather, we need to appreciate the cultural inner meanings and messages behind it, so that we can benefit from its divine power.