Looking to add some exotic flavor to your CD collection? Search no more. “Spirit on Two Strings” is a beautiful, meditative collection of traditional erh-hu music, masterfully executed by Jie-Bing Chen and accompanied by Yang-Qin Zhao.
Chen, considered the greatest virtuoso of the erh-hu in the world, delivers a performance filled with passion and vigor on the vertical two-stringed instrument often dubbed the “violin of the East,” invoking images of cherry blossoms blowing in a soft breeze, or gentle brooks babbling in the countryside.
The music is distinctly Chinese, which makes it interesting, and also has a great calming effect when you’re stressed or worried.
The CD opens with “Moon Reflects on the Erh-Chuan Spring,” a piece that begins simply and quietly, then becomes dramatic and urgent. This track is probably the strongest on the album, though there is not a single weak song.
In “Birds Singing in a Deserted Mountain,” Chen gives the erh-hu a birdlike quality that makes the piece stand out; the final track, the march “Bright Prospects,” stands alone too, departing from the traditional feel of the album.
If you’re in the mood for something different, don’t hesitate to try “Spirit on Two Strings.” I’m very selective about what I buy, but this CD suckered me in right away. Perhaps the greatest thing about it is that it gets better with every listen.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.