World premiere of The Kites of Tianjin by Adam Simmons
Inspired by Simmons’ experiences in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, famous for its Wei Kites, The Kites of Tianjin will feature Wang Zheng-Ting on Sheng (Chinese mouth organ) as featured soloist with the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble.
The Kites of Tianjin will be the fifth and final concert in Simmons’ acclaimed The Usefulness of Art series. Comprising five unique and original concerts over 2017-18, The Usefulness of Art originated from a quote by Auguste Rodin, and is the driving force behind Simmons’ formidable musical career.
Since meeting in 2007, Simmons and Ting have collaborated on a number of major concerts as a duo and with Simmons’s trio, Origami. The two were intrigued by the Wei Kites during a visit to Tianjin in 2017, where they attended a workshop run by Wei Guoqiu, a fourth-generation member of the famous kite-making family.
“There’s something irresistible about making your own kite… and about finding the way to ride the wind. It’s similar to playing with nature in other ways, such as creating sand tunnels at the beach or floating sticks down the river or stoking the hot coals to produce flames,” says Simmons.
“A kite is brought to life by the wind—and we in turn rely on breathing to give us life. This invisible force around us has such potential for creation and sustenance. My personal revelation a few years back is that really what I have been learning via my musical instruments is fundamentally about how to breathe—and that to breathe is to live. In this way, the kite in the wind becomes a metaphor for living.”
The Kites of Tianjin—which musically and visually explores breath and the fundamental nature of being human—is the culmination of the preceding Usefulness of Art concerts. Together, the concerts have used Simmons’ original art music to ponder such weighty concepts as the creation of form, art through music, qualities that art engenders in humanity, reasons to create art, how art connects communities and helps develop understanding of one’s place in the world, exploring personal identity, and connecting to place.
The first four concerts have elicited rapturous praise from critics and audiences alike, including The Age’s Jessica Nicholas: “… another marvellously assured step in Simmons' own journey as musician and composer, and a potent demonstration of the usefulness – no, the necessity – of art as an expression of our collective humanity,” and “(The Calling was) arresting both musically and visually, reflecting the sense of empathy and shared experience that gives this work such a strong emotional resonance.”
Two 5-star reviews by Raphael Solarsh of Arts Hub effused: “… (a) sonic freefall into a raw and emotive tour de force… another masterpiece by Simmons and his collaborators,” and “Simmons' music is rich and evocative with the cinematic string arrangement given a grittier and more tactile edge by saxophony that spanned subtle breath all the way to unrestrained wail." This concert is supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program.
THE KITES OF TIANJIN—MUSICIAN BIOS
Adam SimmonsA virtuoso player of saxophones, clarinets, flute and shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Adam Simmons stretches the boundaries of modern composition and infuses a sense of wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas. His performances are not so much ‘concerts’ as staged auditory spectacles—drawing audiences in to share in the uniquely communal power and euphoria of his music and art. He has a rare and uncanny ability to elicit the very best from the highly accomplished musicians he works with, as well as evoking spine-tingling emotion and rapturous applause from audiences.
His concerts are joyous, inspired cross-genre collaborations with virtuoso musicians and theatrical artists. Previous concerts have involved not only his eclectic Creative Music Ensemble (in which his father, Paul Simmons, plays saxophone) but also artists of the calibre of Michael Kieran Harvey, the Arcko Symphonic Ensemble, and Diokno Pasilan. Adam is the lead Co-Artistic Director of Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues. He was also selected for the 2017 intake for Australia Council’s Arts Leader Program.
Wang-Zheng TingWang Zheng-Ting is a world-renowned musician (Sheng, Chinese mouth organ), musical director, lecturer, author and ethnomusicologist. He graduated from Shanghai Music Conservatory and completed an MA in Ethnomusicology at Monash University and a PhD in Ethnomusicology at the University of Melbourne, and is an honorary research fellow at Monash University.
He co-ordinated the Chinese Instrumental Music course at the University of Melbourne, was a Melbourne Festival Ambassador in 2014 and 2015, and has been invited as a visiting scholar to the City University of New York, guest professor at Xiamen University, and Research Fellow at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music. He is director of the Australian Chinese Music Ensemble. As a lecturer and solo performer on the Sheng (Chinese mouth organ), he has performed recitals across the world including the US (New York Lincoln Center, University of California), and in Zurich, Germany, Thailand, Tokyo, Holland, China and Italy. His book, Chinese Music in Australia: Victoria, 1850s to mid-1990s was published in 1997.