The Naxos Classical Music Spotlight Podcast's latest edition is about the composer Bright Sheng. This composer of Chinese descent is not easy to place, just as, host Raymond Bisha compares, the Belgian composer Olivier Messiaen. Not that Sheng is like Messiaen, Sheng is not easily categorized, just as Messiaen was.
It seems to come with the territory. Bisha tells us that the Chinese, in order to compete with the West, started having their own orchestras with their own instruments, only in the 1950's. As Bisha points out: making orchestras is one thing, but developing a repertoire is much, much more difficult. So, just as the whole concept of orchestras was imitated from the west, the evolving orchestral repertoire, no matter how Chinese in nature, is borrowing from the west.
Sheng is one such Chinese composer that writes orchestral music. While he brings in his Chinese roots, he also learns from the western musical tradition. The result is profoundly Chinese, yet accessible for the westerner, as I found out while listening to the podcast.
Sir Charles Mackerras,
Pictures at an Exhibition,
Hildegard von Bingen.