© 2023 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Classic silent Chinese films gain a voice through music

Lynne Harty Photography

Filmgoers at the Brevard Music Center will have a chance on Thursday to view two classic silent Chinese films from the 1920’s, but they won’t be silent.

Musician and composer Min Xiao-Fen will perform her original works written to accompany the films, “Romance of the Fruit Peddler" and "Romance of the Western Chamber.”

The Smithsonian commissioned Xiao-Fen to create the music that she said “breathes new life” into the films. Xiao-Fen was motivated to give the films a voice, she said, because the original silent films were damaged in the cultural revolution.

A variety of instruments will be used in the performance, but the most notable will be her unique instrument with a long history: the pipa.

“This instrument is a plucked string instrument. It has been played for more than 2,000 years,” she said. “If you think about the shape, it's like a pear shape, or you can say it's like a teardrop.”

The classic silent cinema will also feature master percussionist River Guerguerian playing alongside Fen.

“He understands that the world needs music,” Xiao-Fen said. “When I met him, and we performed together…before the film started, I felt we have a huge chemistry between each other.”

The location of the performance is important to Xiao-Fen, a three-year resident of the region. She said she felt compelled to work with the community.

“Ever since I moved to Asheville, I felt the audience, the people,” she said. “Everything just felt so welcoming and[I] felt so grateful. So many people support me.”

The classic silent cinema takes place Thursday, November 9th at Parker Concert Hall in Brevard.

Jose Sandoval is the afternoon host and reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio.