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"Simplicity sets my music free": The sublime Jew's harp meditations of the artist Wang Li

Wang Li plays Lubu jew's harp at the Ancient Trance Festival 2014

The New York Times wrote this about a concert given by the Chinese Jew's harp virtuoso Wang Li: "Wang Li educes futuristic sounds from the simplest of instruments. He plays all possible types of Jew's harps, positioned very close to the microphone, reverberating so that every movement, every resonance can be heard down to the very last detail. His pieces are fascinating, introverted with delicate movements of performed meditations. Sometimes the sharp clicks are reminiscent of electronic dance music, wrapped in ghostly harmonious melodies. Li´s music is deeply lonesome and charmingly soft."

Performance at TED 2013

Today Wang Li lives in Paris. He was born in the north-eastern Chinese city of Qingdao. During his time at school he learned how to play the bass guitar and had already come into contact for the first time with a Jew's harp. After he had graduated from school, he entered a French monastery. Spiritual elegance and the pursuit of an inner balance characterize his compositions right up to today. As a mouth organ and jew's harp player, he sees himself not as an artist primarily but rather as a type of tool: "I don't make the sounds, the universe calls them forth. When one creates a vibration then something changes in the structure and framework of our world. I can't see the universe but am located directly in it. Music and vibrations have an impact in the world." As a result, Wang Li is not over-concerned about the fuss surrounding him. He says "There is nothing special about me. I am always worried about the future, I am worried about the here-and-now, and I try and find a few warm consoling moments in the past."

As his aim, Wang Li strives to achieve a higher level of consciousness. In music, also. One has arrived somewhere, he says, if one no longer just tries to play the instrument but rather is played by the instrument. "So far, unfortunately, the jew's harp has not become part of me. I hope that, one day, the jew's harp will play me. In my opinion, it is not a question of whether I play the jew's harp, but so far it is still a case of me trying to do something in order to produce good vibrations. But I am still so very limited in my abilities, and the jew's harp is a majorly important instrument because it can establish vibrations between you and the universe."

Past, Present, Future

Wang Li studied jazz at the Paris Conservatory. The opportunities which musical improvisation offered him cast a spell over him. The jew's harp has become his favorite instrument. He believes it to be a medium which allows people to establish a connection to things that are invisible. The Jew's harp accompanies Li in his search for resonance and freedom. He says it is simplicity that sets his music free. It opens a door for him to an inner world which takes him back to his childhood memories and which can become a place of silence and reflection. For that reason also, critics describe his music as sacred. A new album by Wang Li entitled "Past, Present, Future" was released in November 2014 on the Buda Musique label.

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