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A boy playing the flute in a workshop with Silk Road Ensemble members

© MICHAEL METZGER

Creating a Life with Music
Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble conduct "Creating a Life with Music" workshops for advanced high-school music students. These workshops go beyond discussions of technique, incorporating performance and addressing ways for students to pursue careers in music in today's global society.


Sheng

© TARA TODRAS-WHITEHILL

"I put a microphone inside the sheng to enlarge its sound. You could say I have invented a variation on the sheng. If the microphone is unplugged, you get a traditional sheng voice. If it's plugged in, you can get many different sounds, more contemporary sounds."

- WU TONG

Sheng

orig. China  The sheng is a mouth organ made of metal, wood or a gourd with a blowpipe and at least 17 bamboo or metal pipes extending from the top of the bowl. The elegant symmetrical arrangement of the pipes represents the folded wings of the mythical phoenix. Inside the bowl, each pipe has a hole covered by a metal tongue that interrupts the air current to produce a strikingly clear, metallic sound. Western harmonicas, reed organs and concertinas use the same basic acoustical principles.

Mouth organs similar to the sheng are first mentioned in Chinese texts dating from the 14th to 12th centuries B.C.E. Today, the sheng is used primarily to play Chinese classical music with other traditional Chinese instruments, such as the pipa and erhu. However, some innovative musicians, such as Wu Tong of the successful Chinese hard rock band Again, have also been recontextualizing the sheng in popular music.


Hear the instrument
Sheng sound clip »


Sheng players
Hu Jianbing
Wu Tong


Other wind instruments
Bawu
Clarinet
Duduk
Gaita
Ney
Shakuhachi


Other Chinese instruments
Bawu
Erhu
Pipa
Ruan