Ancient Chinese Music
Little known by even my friends, I have always enjoyed the harsh and scratchy sounds (when I play, at least) of authentic Chinese music played on ancient instruments. The two I'm working with right now are the erhu and the guqin.
The erhu is a wicked-awesome Chinese two-stringed violin. The horsehair bow is strung in between the two metal strings, which find their sound amplified by a drum-shaped body covered by a layer of python skin. If he one day retired from the Western violin and picked up an erhu, Joshua Bell would be saddened to find that he can't do those flashy bow flips. I recently wrote an electro-acoustic piece comprised solely of sounds from the erhu.
You can also check out traditional music being played at the University
of Arizona by the Purple Bamboo Ensemble.
On the other side of the scratchy spectrum, the guqin is a much gentler sounding instrument. Seven strings tuned pentatonically and stretched across a fretless, Imperial Cruiser-shaped plank of wood make this an easy instrument to make pretty sounds on -- but a hard one with which to do anything else. You can hear modern music composed for the guqin, as well as other ancient instruments, in The Copious Collaboration. Below is a brief promotional video introducing the project, which might be on its way to becoming a unique collaborative ethnic music festival.
Music for Modern Dance
If you thought that by saying "music for modern dance" I meant Justin Bieber, I am sorry to inform you that he has not been invited to this discussion. I'm talking about the craft of improvising music for modern dance classes; an art passed down to me by Suzanne Knosp at the UA School of Dance. Sometimes playing alone and sometimes with friends, I've had such a blast doing this for the past year or so. Above are two videos that will give you the low-down.