The piece, MuLan, tells the story of Hua Mulan, a legendary Chinese figure who disguised herself as a man to fight in wars in the place of her elderly father and dramatizes her return from the battlefield a decade later.
The piece blends elements from Eastern and Western cultures, as well as modern and traditional elements of art. It breaks away from traditional percussion music and Peking opera performances, with percussionists doubling as actors and instruments becoming props.Different instruments are also used to express Mulan’s mood at different stages of her life.
For example, Chinese bass drums are used to represent the tension in battle scenes, while bowls and pots are used to play brisk music in a scene where Mulan recalls her childhood.
Two percussionists perform a melancholic piece on a marimba — a type of xylophone — to mourn the cruelty of war. The marimba is later used as a prop to symbolize a coffin.
Ju percussion Group
The Ju percussion Group (JPG), founded by percussionist Tzong-Ching Ju in January 1986, is the first percussion ensemble established in Taiwan. It consists of 13 talented percussionists and one composer in residence. The members possess transcendental virtuosity in playing Western percussion instruments as well as Chinese gong-drum music, and other form of Asian traditional music. This is a group devoting itself in performing, education and percussion promoting.
Since its establishment, the JPG has performed in Asia, Europe, Australia and the America. Since 1993 the Group was joined by leading percussion ensembles from the United States, Japan, Korea, France, Sweden, Hungary, Germany, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands at Taipei International Percussion Convention (TIPC). The JPG was invited to perform at Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) in Dallas (Texas) and Louisville (Kentucky), U.S.A., in 2000 and 2003. The JPG collaborated with the world-famous Les Percussions de Strasbourg (France) on a cultural-exchange project, Les Douze Lunes du Serpent, premiered in December 2001. Invited by the Budapest Spring Festival, the JPG and the Amadinda Percussion Group of Hungary jointly presented the grand percussive work Stoicheia, written by James Wood, in 2002. In the same year, the JPG participated in the Beijing Music Festival in China and the year followed, the Group was invited to take part in the Chekhov International Theatre Festival. The participation in both events received great critical acclaim.
Aside from being featured in the percussion concerts, the JPG has also performed with the Cloud Gate Dance Theater and the Lanling Theater Workshop, touring nationally and internationally. In 1992, the JPG undertook a series of experimentation in music theater, which resulted in three major multi-media productions, Fantasia, in 1993, and Dream of Chimes in 1994, and See the Music in 2001. These productions incorporated other art forms and created a new audio and visual ambiance.