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Pipa: From a Distance

4.2 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 15, 2003
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Pipa: From a Distance
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  • Wu Man: Chinese Traditional & Contemporary Music for Pipa and Ensemble
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  • Elegant Pipa Classics - Wu Man's New Renditions Of Ancient Melodies
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Invocation
  2. Dancing!
  3. Ancient Shadows
  4. Journey
  5. Hangzhou Blues
  6. Vincent's Tune
  7. Crescent Moon Over The Mountain
  8. Ambushed Again
  9. Full Circle
  10. From A Distance
  11. Bonus Track


Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 15, 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos World
  • Run Time: 54 minutes
  • ASIN: B00008RV0E
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,976 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By o dubhthaigh VINE VOICE on April 25, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Wu Man is to the pipa, the Chinese lute-like instrument, what Robert Fripp is to the guitar. There are no limits, there is only walking out into the garden to greet the future. The music here is ecstatically inspired and while the Cd begins and closes with sublime traditional tones, what happens in between is the stuff of dreams, of wonder, of giving oneself over to Music so that Music may take you into its confidence.
Not since King Crimson's "Discipline" have I been so thoroughly amazed and inspired by a sustained effort throughout an entire CD. This is not to say that Wu Man is replicating Fripp's Bartok meets Hendrix in style, but certainly in spirit.The opening "Invocation" is as quietly spiritual a piece as you are likely to hear. A bit like Fripp's Soundscapes before the roar of Crimson. "Dancing" is almost Beatle-like and absolutely inspiring. All through I kept expecting to hear McCartney, Lennon and Harrison chime in, and if you're sitting all through this number, you have serious enjoyment issues. "Ancient Spirit" and "Walking to the East" begin an hypnotic, polyrhythmic journey into another culture. Surely Wu Man's participation in Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble has given her a sense of adventure, and this sublimely sets the tone for the adventurous and blistering "Shanghai Blues", and here is where Fripp meets his match. The intensity of Wu Man's electric pipa is scorchingly awe-inspiring. This is as brilliant a display of electric blues as Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile, Slight Return." Stevie Ray, Jimi, and the remarkable Fripp would all pay homage to such protean fretwork. And it has a deep blues groove that is just fantastic. If you have ever seen Wu Man in concert, you know this girl can cook, and cook she does!
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It began for me like this, in 1989 or thereabouts, I was flipping through channels on the telly and happened upon the tail end of a documentary on China. I remember little of the program, save the ending. As the credits rolled a young Chinese woman was playing a stringed instrument that I thought at the time was a samisen (gives you an idea how long it had been since I'd seen one of those). I know now it was a pipa. Her performance was strikingly virtuosic. I was amazed at both her amazing technique and equally, the wonderful sounds she was coaxing from this unique instrument. Though I could see the pipa was lute-like, its sound reminded me of the guitar and the banjo, but with a level of sonority that dwarfed both. The player executed what American musicians would call trills and minor bends on the strings that gave the instrument an aural tactile quality that was quite haunting. I was blown away.

Flash ahead 17 years.

I was walking through the Xavier University Library near the magazine section and happened upon an issue of World Literature Today. Famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma was on the cover and there was a blurb about his Silk Road Project. Being a fan of Ma, I decided to pull the mag and check out the article. On one of the pages there was a picture of Yo-Yo Ma, and two other musicians, one of them, a woman, playing a pipa. When I saw the instrument I immediately flashed back to the closing of the documentary 17 years before. The woman playing the pipa was Wu Man. Later, I came here to seek the Silk Road recordings for samples, then on a whim clicked on the link to Wu Man, saw pipa: from a distance, listened to samples and was instantly hooked.

Pipa from a distance is a remarkable recording.
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What an interesting CD. Pipa from a Distance presents an exciting blend of ancient styles and modern sounds. Very interesting to the ear. Some selections are unusual - almost irritating (but so is Led Zepplin and I own all of those CDs) - but overall a CD for the person who likes variety and sometimes the unusual.
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Basically, I bought this album because the description I read about it seemed so unfathomably odd that I felt that I should definitely get this album to see just how unusual (and thus interesting) this album could be. I expected something incredibly strange.

I was not dissapointed. This album is brilliantly experimental, with unearthly noises such as bowed pipa, ocarina (not bowed) and (I think I read this right) bicycle horn, as well as a good dose of electric pipa to give Hendrix-esque psychedelia and even a fair amount of heavy percussive folk, this album is recommended for anyone who desires new sounds.
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Did someone mention Hendrix? Traditional pipa master Wu Man, has recorded an eclectic, sometimes electric improvisational instrumental album of traditionally grounded tunes in a decidedly contemporary way. It's sometimes a bit hard to tell what the pipa is doing here (since there is also guitar, banjo, didjeridu, trombone and slide-whistle and various samples being played - all of which could be mistaken for this versatile tweaked-with Chinese lute!). But it sounds like there are often layers of both acoustic and electric pipa being played - as another reviewer mentioned, sounding like Frippertronics, or even more so like Fripp's sometimes sideman Trey Gunn playing a Warr Guitar or Chapman stick, or the ambient world music sounds of Michael Brook.

There is enough dynamic variety here that I find this interesting enough to turn up and rock out to, but also soothing enough to turn down and have as background music. It is definitely a classical and venerable Chinese instrument being played here, but it goes in some very other-worldly and futuristic directions....joyously.
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