Bright Sheng (b. 1955) is a composer from China. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1982 to study at Queens College in New York. After that, Sheng earned his D.M.A. at Columbia University. During the time, he met Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood. Bernstein would become his mentor in both composition and conducting until his dead in 1990. In 2001, Sheng received the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and the American Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and an ASCAP Achievement Award the following year. He has collaborated with many different organizations, being the first to serve as composer in residence of the New York Ballet. Sheng has also written for the Chicago Lyric Opera, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and Tanglewood Music Center where he also taught. Sheng is currently on faculty at the University of Michigan where he is recognized as the Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor of Music.
Seven Tunes Heard in China is a short suite for solo cello that was written to explore the instrument's capabilities before writing a concerto commissioned by Yo-Yo Ma. Sheng studied solo cello works and infused folk tunes of China in a similar way that Kodaly or Bartok did. There are influences of Britten's writing in this work with the wide intervals (7ths) and use of the cello (plucking movements). Sheng wanted for the cello to imitate traditional instruments such as the erhu and the qin, a plucked zither-like instrument. The result of Sheng's experimentations is this suite, which is technically very difficult.
Another well known Chinese composer is Tan Dun. He is known for writing the score for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This is his work Water Passion, which is inspired by J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion (it was written to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Bach's birth). In it, Dun uses bowls of water, drums, strings, Tibetan bells, chants, digital sounds, Chinese opera and Tuvan throat singing. The instruments create haunting sounds and the voices do rather unusual things as well. It's a very interesting sounding piece.
I like this cello suite quite a lot. The influences of Britten, Kodaly, and Bartok are very apparent in this piece. It's something I'd definitely want to learn.
Official site: http://brightsheng.com/bio.html
Zhang Weihua. "Sheng, Bright." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed May 2, 2014, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/42546 .
Sheng - Seven Tunes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXKBnWwrgPA
Dun - Water Passion: http://youtu.be/jzR8mjxX7i8?t=8m50s