In conjunction with the exhibition Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road, musicians from the Silk Road Ensemble are in residence at the Getty to create pop-up musical performances inspired by the art and replica caves on view.

In this video filmed inside replica Cave 275, Haruka Fujii plays percussion (gong) and recalls a composition written by Maki Ishii for her mother, Mutsuko Fujii, and inspired by the composer’s trip to Dunhuang. Wu Man plays the Chinese pipa while reflecting on the animated spirit figures in the cave.

More to Explore

Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road exhibition information

Silk Road Ensemble Interprets Dunhuang through Spontaneous Live Music Iris article

Silk Road Ensemble musician and instrument profiles

Art, History, and Conservation of the Cave Temples of Dunhuang video

Virtual Tour of Cave 275, Mogao Grottoes

Transcript

Haruka Fujii: I am a percussionist. When I say percussionist, I play anything I can hit, including western percussion instruments to world instruments that don’t use any sticks to any object—paper, water. There is an amazing composer from Japan, a contemporary music composer, Maki Ishii. He was a person who was very well known in combining the cultures of China and Japan, also western classical music writing technique combined with Japanese traditional culture and essence of music.

In the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, Maki Ishii and my mother Mutsuko Fujii worked a lot together. So he wrote my mother a piece, these two pieces, with the inspiration he got from his recent trip to Dunhuang Cave. When I heard that Silk Road Ensemble is going to have a residency at Getty Museum, and we’re going to get inspiration from this cave. I was like, “What cave?” This Dunhuang cave is the cave I was always trying to imagine when I play this piece. I can see why he got so moved, and he wanted write a piece about it. The impact you get, and the feeling, the emotion you get from just looking at these pictures is very strong.

Wu Man: Chinese will know Dunhuang cave from the history books. Also, I play the pipa, and there are a lot of stories and literature about pipa and Dunhuang cave. There are a lot of relationships. And the music I was thinking in my mind when I play, actually the material, the tunes came from the west part of China. The Uyghur tradition. Which is called Muqam. I think it really fit. Especially in this cave. Look at their figures, their face. It doesn’t look like me. It’s more central Asia. It’s more Indian, that kind of figure. So that’s why the music comes from that imagination. It’s like I’m in a dream. I’m still want myself to settle. When I play, I feel like they are all getting alive and listening. It’s very emotional.

I started to play when I was 9 years old, and my parents actually picked this instrument for me because they love music, especially traditional music.

Haruka Fujii: It’s almost like by playing, not just making conversion with you, I’m starting to feel all these people in the world and the artists who wrote this.

Haruka Fujii: I am a percussionist. When I say percussionist, I play anything I can hit, including western percussion instruments to world instruments that don’t use any sticks to any object—paper, water. There is an amazing composer from Japan, a contemporary music composer, Maki Ishii. He w...