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Deform from Within

Wu Na's striking album shows off the modern face of traditional guqin music

by Alessandro De Toni in Culture on 30 January 2013

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Born in Chongqing, China, musician Wu Na holds the distinction of being one of the world's premier guqin players, a seven-string instrument strummed by Confucius and revered as one of China's four classical arts. Her instrument of choice is one of China's most ancient and revered musical pieces—reigning as one of four classical arts. Wu's training started at the early age of nine, and she became the first artist in China to receive a Master's degree in guqin performance. Following a recent collaboration with classical experimental group The Tea Rockers Quintet, Wu has just released her latest album "Deform from Within" with record label ENT-T. The six original guqin solos merge tradition and contemporary music, cementing the staying power of the ancient instrument. From the powerful piece "Flowing Water I" to the last plucking note of "What Is Singing II," Wu Na takes listeners on a trip to fascinating lyrical expressions.

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The origin of the guqin dates back more than 3,000 years. Its very structure is covered in symbolism: the round surface and flat bottom boards represent heaven and earth, its length stands for the 365 days of the year and the its original five-string structure (now converted to seven) recalls the basics elements of metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Nicknames like "the dragon pool" and "the phoenix pond" pile on the instrument's mythic aura.

The importance for Chinese culture of this seven-stringed zither lies in the complexity of playing such a precious instrument, involving a unique body posture and breathing that becomes a meditative exercise with the player-oriented instrument. This bodily connection is never more apparent than in the talented hands of Wu Na.

Get your own copy of "Deform from Within" from iTunes and on Amazon.

Images courtesy of ENT-T

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