Into the Vast World

Into the Vast World

Symphonic music of Huang Ruo
Huang Ruo
Huang Ruo
Liang Zhang
Guang Yang
Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra
Catalog Number: 
#1 054
new classical

New York, NY

Release Date: 
Jun 26, 2020
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

Given the high energy and dazzling colors of Huang Ruo’s musical interests, it is no surprise that his music traverses typical confines and explores new territories. Into the Vast World – the first collection of his symphonic works – does just that. Both fragmented and tuneful, wacky and solemn, Huang Ruo’s vision brings a broad perspective to what an orchestra might do (including asking them to sing).

The album bursts to life with an improvised vocal solo in a made-up language performed by Huang Ruo in the Chinese folk-rock style. This opens Shattered Steps, an energetic tour-de-force of frozen moments and ongoing motion. Like a puzzle with no beginning nor end, it carries the listener along helter skelter, one step at a time in the exhilarating rush of the now.

Becoming Another likewise focuses on evolution and transformation, stillness and motion, yin and yang. Still / Motion takes these ideas even farther. Written in response to the 50-year-old Chinese classic “Butterfly Lover” Violin Concerto, Huang Ruo’s work is a dialog with Chinese traditional musical forms, specifically Chinese Opera and Chinese Court Music. Folks Songs for Orchestra engage with his native country in yet a different way; not as arrangements of actual melodies but new compositions inspired by a variety of songs and dances familiar from his travels.

Huang Ruo’s music is inherently dramatic and the album features two excerpts from his opera, An American Soldier, with libretto by David Henry Hwang. It tells the story of Private Danny Chen, an American U.S. Army soldier who served in Afghanistan in 2011, whose death resulted in a military investigation and charges against eight US soldiers, ultimately with four being court martialed. The investigation found that Chen had been racially harassed and beaten by his fellow soldiers before his death on October 3, 2011

In music, as in life, there are many ways to begin. Two Pieces for Orchestra offers two different openings for orchestra. One wild and chaotic, one ceremonious. As the composer says, “The most important thing is not where you are, but where you are going…”

The performances here are by the superb Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra, Liang Zhang, conductor, featuring mezzo Guang Yang.

Huang Ruo was born in Hainan Island, China in 1976 - the year the Chinese Cultural Revolution ended – and received both traditional and Western education at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. His vibrant and inventive musical voice draws equal inspiration from Chinese ancient and folk music, Western avant-garde, experimental, noise, natural and processed sound, rock, and jazz to create a seamless, organic integration using a compositional technique he calls “Dimensionalism.” Huang Ruo’s diverse compositional works span from orchestra, chamber music, opera, theater, and dance, to cross-genre, sound installation, architectural installation, multi-media, experimental improvisation, folk rock, and film. Huang Ruo is a composition faculty at the Mannes School of Music in NY, and is the artistic director and conductor of Ensemble FIRE.



"These strong and eloquent orchestral works are nothing like the bewildering mélange that that might suggest; perhaps his works in other genres are more eclectic." [FULL ARTICLE]


"With orchestral writing rich in dissonance, timbral and rhythmic contrasts, sometimes also inspired by folk music, the forty-five-year-old composer Huang Ruo, born in China and settled in the United States of America, is one of the most interesting contemporary compositional voices on today's scene. His music, refined and rich in inventiveness, takes its cue both from the oriental tradition and from the experiments of western classical music, to the point of touching the influences of Jazz harmonies. 'Into The Vast World' contains, in fact, several compositions that represent an interesting overview of his musical production. From the more traditional and tonal Folk Songs for Orchestra, in which he expertly arranges and elaborates music of the Chinese tradition, we arrive at more experimental compositions such as Shattered Step or Becoming Another where orchestral timbre and experimentation are incorporated into interesting symphonic pieces. Punctual and precise performances by the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Liang Zhang." [FULL ARTICLE] - Luciano Feliciani