Professor Gao Ping - Musicological Society of Australia


Shifts and Turns: Moving Music, Musicians and Ideas

30 Nov - 3 Dec 2016

39th National Conference of the Musicological Society of Australia
Elder Conservatorium of Music, The University of Adelaide

Convenors: Steven Knopoff and Daniela Kaleva


Professor Gao Ping

Keynote Presentation

Date:  Friday 2 December
Venue: Braggs Lecture Theatre, The Braggs Building Ground Floor
Time: 5:15pm

A Chinese Musician in a World without Walls

For a contemporary musician in China today, there seems to be two paths to follow. The first looks backwards through the centuries of Chinese traditions, the other outwards to the myriads of possibilities in the international world. Fortunately, there is ‘a middle path’, one that embraces elements of both, and that is how I would characterize my own life as a composer-pianist. My presentation in Adelaide will be largely an autobiographical narrative, as I review the influences and milestones in my life: Memories of the sounds of my native home in Sichuan; my training in America; the example set by composers like the late Jack Body, the New Zealander who found inspiration in traditional cultures the world over; the idea of the pianist as a multi-faceted performer who also sings, speaks and plays other instruments; my own ‘discovery’ of traditional Chinese instruments like the Qin; composing for those instruments and combining them with Western concert instruments; relating to ancient ways of Chinese thinking, and many other dimensions. My presentation will include video clips of my work with the Purple Forbidden City New Orchestra, as well as live performances of two recent works of my own, one for solo vocalizing pianist, the other for piano (4 hands) in which I will be joined by a new friend, the Adelaide born pianist Ashley Hribar.

I have always thought of myself as a story-teller of sorts, but in place of words, I use music. Some people have found in my work a mélange of Chopin and Shostakovich, popular Chinese song and post-Mao revolutionary music. Underlying all that is my sense of identity as the product of rich traditions constantly refreshed and expanded by new encounters of a world without borders or walls.






The son of musician parents, GAO Ping was born in Chengdu, in the Chinese province of Sichuan, in 1970. He studied piano and composition in Beijing, and then in the USA where he took his Doctorate in Musical Arts at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati. For several years from 2004 he taught at Canterbury University in Christchurch, New Zealand. In the ensuing decade, he developed significant ties between China, New Zealand and Australia. More recently, Dr Gao has returned to Beijing where he is currently Head of Composition at the Conservatory of Music – Capital Normal University, as well as composer-inresidence with the Forbidden City Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble of musicians who play mainly new compositions on traditional Chinese instruments.

Two albums of his music on the Naxos label have received critical acclaim. A critic with the international music journal Percorsi Musicali described him as “one of the most important composers to emerge from China in recent years”.

Increasingly in demand as composer, pianist, teacher and lecturer, Dr Gao has received many prestigious commissions, performances and awards from noted performers, venues and festivals around the world.

His music draws its inspiration from the folklore of his native China, from ancient Chinese poetry and the oral tradition of story-telling from his childhood in Sichuan. “I have always thought of myself as a story-teller of sorts,” he has written, “but in place of words, I use music.” Many of his pieces for solo piano required the player to sing, hum and vocalize, and play prepared piano and other percussion instruments. Habitually, his pieces comprise a mélange of Chopin and Shostakovich, popular Chinese song and post-Mao revolutionary music.

For more information, please visit Professor Gao Ping's official website.