Album Review: Min Xiao-Fen – Metta

I’ve written before about virtuoso musician and composer Min Xiao-Fen. Min has carved out a fascinating and unique niche in the musical world. With a foundation in classical music, she immersed herself in the NYC avant garde scene. Among other notable efforts, Min made a truly remarkable work that forged a connection that hadn’t previously existed: 2017’s Mao, Monk and Me. In recent years she has landed commissions with the Smithsonian, played Carnegie Hall and other astounding achievements across the globe.

Min’s recent activity has focused in part upon creatively filling a space. Taking silent films from the golden age of Chinese cinema, Min has created current-day scores for those films. Drawing from her amazingly broad musical worldview, Min has created works that succeed on multiple levels. They serve the goals of the films they accompany, they succeed on their own as compelling music, and they combine musical folkloric traditions with a modern sensibility.

Wow. That’s my one-word summary of Min Xiao-Fen’s artistry. Relocating a few years back from Brooklyn to Asheville NC, she soon fell in with a rich community of unique and boundary-pushing musical artists here. And it all comes together on Metta, an album created in collaboration with acclaimed percussionist/multi-instrumentalist River Guerguerian.

The two play a dizzying assortment of instruments both familiar and exotic, crafting scores/soundtracks for Romance of the Fruit Peddler (1922) and 1927’s Romance of the Western Chamber. I had the pleasure of witnessing these pieces performed live (and, of course, accompanied with the onscreen images of those films), and while there’s something ineffably transcendent about that in-person experience, Metta captures the aural component faithfully. The music expresses a wonderful array of moods, from contemplative to sorrowful to exhilarated. Immerse yourself in this music and you’ll experience the same.

And hey: Min Xiao-Fen will be performing with her trio Asian Soundscape (Min plus koto player Mari Ohta and Asheville-based Thm Nguyen and percussion) at the Asheville Museum of Art on July 18.