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2017 Soul Journey Nine Songs

2017 Soul Journey Nine Songs

Nine Songs was the original title of an ancient song of the Han people. It was rewritten by the patriotic poet Qu Yuan into a set of poems based on Han ritual music. Its uniquely elegant and dignified structure is filled with religious and mythical flavour. In addition, its rich vernacular generates a graceful feel that pervades through the poems.

Nine Songs comprises 11 poems—The Heavenly God of the Eastern Sky, The Lord of Clouds, The God of the Xiang, The Lady of the Xiang, The God of Fate, The Goddess of Fate, The Lord of the East, The Lord of the River, The Mountain Spirit, Hymn to the Fallen, and The Ode to the Spirits. These poems are mostly sung by male and female shamans. The work opens with The Heavenly God of the Eastern Sky as a welcoming piece to the Heavenly God and ends with The Ode to the Spirits to bid farewell to the gods. The nine poems in between illustrate the relationship between Man and God— from Man’s yearning for God to his doubts about God; from elation over God’s presence to grief over God’s departure. The contents and structure of these poems seem to suggest that Nine Songs is the origin of the ritual song-and-dance drama.

Known as Qu Yuan’s most exquisite poems, the gods in Nine Songs possessed human characteristics and emotions. Hence when stripped of its divine aura, these poems no longer function as a means of worship but instead convey one’s personal emotions.

Nanyin and Liyuan opera are some of the finest ancient art forms of Chinese culture. Their simple yet elegant characteristics have been preserved and passed down in the southern China provinces of Fujian and Guangdong over the ages, so much so that they are known as two of the “living fossils” of Chinese music and opera. Similarly, Qu Yuan’s Nine Songs has also survived for more than two millennia. It is a work that encapsulates the aesthetics of poetry from the ancient state of Chu while reflecting the customs and superstitions of its people.

In 2015, Soul Journey - Nine Songs was created using the traditional framework of Nanyin and Liyuan opera while exploring contemporary means of expressions among traditional and modern idioms. After nine months of discussion, exploration, coordination, experimentation, dialogue, communication, exchange, creation, rehearsal, and bringing everything together, ‘Soul Journey - Nine Songs’ began to take shape. Elements of instrumental music, singing, drama, body movement, lighting, image projection, sound effects, stage and costume design are incorporated into the production to create, suggest and interpret the spirit of Nine Songs, while simultaneously striving to present an all-out sensational experience of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.

Two years later, ‘Soul Journey - Nine Songs’ re-staged in a new creative direction, by adapting the original black box theatre performance onto a proscenium stage. This new adaption has travelled to Quan Zhou, China, the birthplace of Nanyin and feature at the 3rd China Maritime Silk Road International Arts Festival in December 2017.