Chinese Bluegrass Orchestration

New Purple Forbidden City OrchestraWhat happens when a North Carolina native builds a career in experimental music composition and then becomes fascinated with the sounds of a 10 piece traditional chinese ensemble? Why Chinese bluegrass of course!

William Duckworth grew up in the mountains of North Carolina in 1943. He grew up listening to native bluegrass music as a child. When he went to the University of Illinois as a young man, he studied microtonal music with his instructor there. He has since been involved with various experimental music forms, his Time Curve Preludes for piano defining the Postminimalism style.

While in Brisbane, Australia in May of 2010, Duckworth heard The New Purple Forbidden City Orchestra of Beijing for the first time. Inspired by the similarities between the instrumentation and acoustic tonal characteristics of the orchestra’s music, and that of the bluegrass he remembered from his childhood, he set out to compose a piece of music that would play off those commonalities.

In December of 2010 he completed the composition of a five movement dance suite entitled Blue Grass.

It is not an imitation of traditional bluegrass music, however, but rather a memory, a reflection from childhood, filtered through the instruments and performance practices of another culture. What I hear in this piece is a combination of my past and present, of music old and new.

Plans are in place for the the orchestra to record the piece soon and then take it on tour around the world.

You can read an interview with Duckworth about the project here, and you can read his bio and more about his music here.