Teng Ensemble launches new guide to Chinese orchestra instruments

SINGAPORE – Home-grown music group The Teng Company launched a new guide to the instruments of the Chinese orchestra on Tuesday (July 9).

The Teng Guide To The Chinese Orchestra, which was four years in the making and runs to 620 pages, outlines the history, physical attributes and performance techniques of 13 sets of Chinese musical instruments and examines how each works on its own.

It also analyses excerpts from 18 Chinese orchestral pieces composed over the last 60 years, including works from Singapore such as Prince Sang Nila Utama And Singa by Cultural Medallion recipient Law Wai Lun, to give composers an insight into how the instruments can be combined.

It was written by Teng co-founder and creative director Samuel Wong, the group’s head of research and education Wang Chenwei and composer-in-residence Chow Jun Yi.

The non-profit group is known for its efforts to reinvent traditional Chinese music and spread it to new audiences.

Dr Wong, 36, said this was the first book to provide such a comprehensive look at Chinese orchestra instruments in the English language.

“There has always been a language barrier for non-Chinese composers as a lot of information is only available in Chinese,” he said. “We hope this book can bridge the gap between cultures and empower Western composers to write for Chinese instruments.”

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, who was guest of honour at the book’s launch at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, said: “This depth of research will help Chinese orchestra practitioners capitalise on the unique strengths and expressions of each instrument, and enhance the understanding of their role in a Chinese orchestra.” 

Ms Fu also noted the partnership between Teng and the Confucius Institute at Nanyang Technological University to conduct the Chinese Music Instrumental Grading Examinations for Chinese instruments, which has accredited more than 1,500 students since it began last year.

“The examinations have given a large base of amateur Chinese music students from Singapore and other Asean countries the opportunity to gain accreditation, as well as foster a greater appreciation and deeper understanding of Chinese music,” she said.

The Teng Guide To The Chinese Orchestra ($98 for hardcover, $46 for softcover) is available from major bookstores and www.worldscientific.com

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