Sheng! L'orgue à bouche - 8th seminar [ONLINE]

How to listen to the sound of sheng?
Wed 9 December 2020,
2:30 p.m.- 5:30 p.m.
salle Stravinsky

A seminar to follow online


Liao Lin-Ni (TPMC / IReMus)
What instructional approach is suggested by Wei’s legacy in contemporary repertoire for sheng?

It is said that the origin of the sheng is harmony, which connects the sky, the earth and the human being. Wu Wei's catalog of contemporary repertoire for sheng now includes more than 250 world-premiered works. The production of a verified catalog based on many interviews with Wu Wei revealed an extremely creative and thoughtful process of composing. How do you unveil the many facets of a master through the improvisation, interpretation, composition, teaching, and research for which he known throughout the world?

In this session, we would like to specifically address his passion and his understanding of creation and transmission. How does Wu Wei approach collaboration with composers and contemporary music ensembles? His numerous collaborators include ensembles, academies and festivals, such as Nieuw Ensemble and Royaumont, as well as the ensembles of which he is or has been a participant: Dragon Ensemble, Atlas Ensemble and AsianArt Ensemble. This level of production has led to a true evolution in the development of the diversity of sheng repertoire. Today, the sheng is one of the most internationally developed Asian instruments, yet is still carefully prepared in close collaboration with the master.

Wu Wei plays a 37-pipe model sheng with extra keys and a partial amplification system.

Christian Utz (University of Music and Performing Arts Graz)
Contextualizing the sheng: Critique of Cultural Essentialism and Political Violence in my Works for Chinese-Western ensemble

My two works (2003) for sheng/xun, flute/bass flute, trombone, percussion and live-electronics and the wasteland of minds (2003–04) for sheng/xun, zheng, clarinet in A, accordion, violin, cello and live electronics were aiming to find non-hierarchical forms of musical communication between Chinese and European instruments and musicians. A hybrid material based on gestural performance movements and playing techniques aimed beyond the idiomaticism of adapted musical material from traditional musics, a procedure I had used in earlier works for intercultural ensembles.
Moreover, both works were conceived during a period of enhanced global political conflict (9/11, Second Iraq War etc.) which is reflected in the explicit and implicit documentary and text material integrated into these pieces. A crucial function is taken by the live-electronics which in both pieces enhances the complexity of the sound situation and contributes to an entanglement of the sonic spheres. Both works were created in communication with sheng-performer Wu Wei and are indebted to his unique performance style. As a conclusion a short look at my most recent work for intercultural ensemble, walls for ensemble and electronics (2018), will show how the search for non-hierarchical sound structures has materialized here and how the role of the Chinese instruments has changed in the conception of this work.

Alexis Baskind & Wu Wei
A forest of pipes: presenting the sheng from the inside

In the vast majority of existing studio and live productions, the sheng is represented as an external sound object, i.e. a sound source (typically positioned forward) with a given distance and width, placed in a real or virtual space, as it is usually done for other instruments in music production. The research presented here consists in proposing a perspective reversal, i.e. to develop methods to set the listener metaphorically inside the sheng, surrounded by the pipes, similarly to the image of the "forest of pipes" sometimes used for the church organ. This idea, which for the organ may be technically easier (though still complex) to implement, poses significant difficulties for the Sheng because of the size of the instrument and the radiation of the pipes (mostly directed outwards). Alternative methods for the design of the microphone system must therefore be sought to overcome this obstacle.

Contact| contact(at)

TPMC - IRCAM - CNRS - IReMus - Ministère de la Culture - SACEM


Liao Lin-Ni is a Taiwanese-French composer and musicologist based in Paris, where she studied with Allain Gaussin and Philippe Leroux. She holds a doctorate in musicology from the Sorbonne University and is an associate researcher at the Institute for Research in Musicology (CNRS UMR822). Liao Lin-Ni is the author of three books and ten articles analyzing musical language, cultural identity and heritage in contemporary Asian music, and feminism in composing in the Far East. Her most recent projects revolve around the erhu (2012-2017) and the mouth organ (2019-2023). As a composer, she explores the musical and philosophical fusion between time and space, physical and musical gesture, and the visual and the auditory. Gifted with synesthesia, Liao Lin-Ni perceives sounds as lights of different intensities, a sensitivity she suggests in the play of light and shadow in her music. She is also inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson, as evident in her works Poussière dans le vent for flute, violin, cello and piano (2013) and one bird, one tree for erhu, accordion, and piano (2017), which was commissioned by Radio France. All of her music is published by Maison ONA, Paris. Liao Lin-Ni is also the artistic director of TPMC (Tout Pour la Musique Contemporaine) in Paris.

Christian Utz is professor for music theory and music analysis at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz and associate professor for musicology at the University of Vienna. He has also been visiting professor at the National Chiao-Tung University (Taiwan) and The University of Tokyo. His monographs include Neue Musik und Interkulturalität. Von John Cage bis Tan Dun (Steiner, 2002) and Musical Composition in the Context of Globalization. New Perspectives on Music History of the 20th and 21st Century (transcript, 2014/2020). Utz has been co-editor of the Zeitschrift der Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie (ZGMTH, 2015–20), the Lexikon Neue Musik (Metzler/Bärenreiter 2016), and of Vocal Music and Contemporary Identities: Unlimited Voices in East Asia and the West (Routledge, 2013), among others. He has directed several research projects, most recently Performing, Experiencing and Theorizing Augmented Listening (PETAL, 2017–2020, funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF). In 2017, he received the Best Paper Award of the Austrian Society for Musicology for his open access publication Multivalent Form in Gustav Mahlerʼs Lied von der Erde from the Perspective of Its Performance History ( As a composer, Utz has been invited to many important European seminars of new music, including the Stage d’informatique musicale IRCAM/Paris 1999, and has received numerous grants and awards. From 1998 to 2006 intercultural collaborations and concepts have been at the centre of Utz’ compositional activities; they are documented on his CDs Site (Composers’ Art Label 2002) and transformed (Spektral Records 2008). Utzʼs work stele (2011) after texts from the Gilgamesh epic and by Liao Yiwu was premiered by Schola Heidelberg and ensemble aisthesis and in 2018 the ensemble PHACE premiered walls at the Beijing International Composition Workshop (Central Conservatory of Music) where Utz was invited as guest professor.

Alexis Baskind is a musician, sound engineer and computer music designer. He first learned sound recording with Benoit Fabre at the Aubervilliers/La-Courneuve School of Music, and followed at the same time scientific and technical studies. He joined the Ircam in 1999, and there he pursued researches on room acoustics. Obtaining a PhD in 2003, he has been working since then on music creation, theatre and dance projects, for numerous structures including Ircam, the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, the Campagnie des Musiques à Ouïr and the Centre International de Recherche Musicale. Among others, he worked with composers Philippe Leroux, Beat Furrer, Hanspeter Kyburz, Héctor Parra, Pedro Amaral, François Paris, Philippe Hurel, Vladimir Tarnopolsky, Alexandros Markéas, Fabián Panisello, Turgut Erçetin, Rebecca Saunders, as well as with the theatre director Jean-François Peyret, in music, theatre and dance projects melting live electronics and traditional instruments. He works regularly on artistical and technical projects requiring the development of specific solutions for sound processing, sound design, and interfacing with gesture and visual analysis systems. He is former professor in Theory and Practice of Sound Engineering in the Hochschule der populären Künste FH (Berlin) and lecturer at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold, and is been also regularly giving courses in sound engineering and computer music in music schools, universities and training institutes for music production.

Wu Wei, the artistry of internationally, renowned Sheng virtuoso, reaches far beyond the traditional boundaries of his more than 3000-year-old Chinese instrument and brings it well into the 21st century. The Sheng, a mouth organ, formed out of a bundle of bamboo reeds and cased in a metal bowl, sounds as the singing phoenix from a Chinese legend: silvery and fleeting as the wind. Wu Wei’s radiant and transparent tone as well as the infinite possibilities offered by his instrument in terms of melody, harmony, rhythm, polyphony have led him to collaborating with many artists and ensembles in traditional, chamber or orchestral settings, improvising in solo concerts or with jazz big Bands, playing electronic music as well as taking part to minimal, baroque music performances. Wu Wei’s desire to experiment with new sound and types of musical expression and his extraordinary capacity to create an individual world out of each performance are reflected in his collaborations with distinguished composers writing concertos for Sheng and orchestra especially for him: Huang Ruo (The color of yellow – 2007), Guus Janssen (Four Songs – 2008), Unsuk Chin (Su – 2009), Jukka Tiensuu (Teoton – 2015), Bernd Richard Deutsch (Phaenomena – 2019), Ondrej Adamek (Lost Prayer Book – 2019), Donghong Shin (Anecdote – 2019), Enjott Schneider (change – 2003 and several other concerts).

In the last decade, Wu Wei has performed with orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic under Kent Nagano, the Seoul Philharmonic under Myung Whun Chung, the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel, BBC Symphony under Ilan Volkov, the Cabrillo Festival and Sao Paulo Symphony under Marin Alsop, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic under Susanna Mälkki, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic under Jaap van Zweden and Edo de Waart, Helsinki Philharmonic under Matthias Pintscher, ensembles such as the Holland Baroque, the Ensemble intercontemporain, the Atlas Ensemble and the NDR Big Band, and soloists like Guus Jansen (organ), Wang Li (Jew’s harp) or Pascal Contet (accordion).

He is regularly invited by international festivals such as the BBC Prom’s in London, Festival d’Automne à Paris, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Edinburgh International Festival, Suntory Hall Summer Festival Tokyo, Dresdner Musikfestspiele, Festival Achtbrücken Cologne, Grafenegg Festival, Lincoln Center Festival New York etc. […] As a composer, Wu Wei has received commissions from the Fondation Royaumont, Musica Viva in Munich, the Hanse Culture Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Cultural Foundation of the Free State of Saxony and several other institutions. With Martin Stegner (viola) und Matthew McDonald (double bass), both members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, he founded the Wu Wei Trio which appears each season in the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonie. As a founder of the Berlin based Ensemble Asianart, he likes to share transcultural programs with instrumentalists from all around the world. He is an ideal partner for interdisciplinary projects involving literature, dance, theatre, architecture…. Wu Wei has recorded for Deutsche Gramophon, Sony Classical, Harmonia Mundi, Wergo, Pentatone and several of his CDs and DVDs have been distinguished by international Awards: International Classical Music Award 2015 and BBC Music Magazine Award 2015 for the Unsuk Chin concertos CD with Deutsche Gramophon, the German Critic Award in 2012 for the “AsianArt Ensemble” CD to note a few.

He also received the Best Sheng Soloist Award China in 2017, the Herald Angels Award 2011 at the International Festival Edinburgh, the Global Root German World Music Prize 2004 in Rudolstadt (Germany). Wu Wei was born in 1970 in Gaoyou (China). He studied at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and started his career in 1993 as a Sheng soloist in China where he performed among others with the Chinese Music Orchestra Shanghaï. In 1995, he was selected by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) and FNS (Friedrich Naumann Foundation) to take part in a four-year scholarship which brought him to Berlin, where he is still currently living. Since 2013, Wu Wei has been a Professor teaching the Sheng at the Shanghaï Conservatory of Music