Friday, 7 May, 2021 | 5:00 PM

Jenny Q Chai

Jenny Q Chai incorporates her exceptional artistry with striking visual elements, including NASA data visualizations, to highlight climate change and COVID-19 challenges.



Humanity First: We Are All In This Together

Jarosław Kapuscinski (music & intermedia composition) with Camille Norton (poetry)
Oli’s Dream

Gyorgy Ligeti (1923-2006)
Musica Ricercata No.1 with NASA global warming data visualizations
Musica Ricercata No.7 with NASA global warming data visualizations

Milica Paranosic
Bubble (in trouble) with bubble machine and lights

Jarosław Kapuscinski (music & intermedia composition) with Kacper Kowalski (photography)
Side Effects (2017)

About the artist

An artist of singular vision, pianist Jenny Q Chai is widely renowned for her ability to illuminate musical connections throughout the centuries. With radical joie de vivre and razor-sharp intention, Chai creates layered multimedia programs which explore and unite elements of science, nature, fashion, and art. The New Yorker describes Chai as“a pianist whose dazzling facility is matched by her deep musicality.”

Chai has a mission focusing on presenting social issues in her themed concerts. For the last 5 years, she has developed and toured with her multimedia global warming program Acqua Alta, collaborating with NASA and using NASA data visualizations. She helped hone the cutting edge AI score following software Antescofo in residences at IRCAM alongside frequent collaborator Jarosław Kapuściński, and has since toured internationally with the software offering multimedia performances in Shanghai, New York, Havana, and elsewhere. In September 2019, Chai gave a TEDx Talk in Shanghai titled When Classical Music Meets Technology.

Other notable highlights include her 2012 Carnegie Hall recital debut; many performances at (le) Poisson Rouge, including a 2016 Antescofo-supported program, Where’s Chopin?; her 2018 Wigmore Hall debut with a program, Sonorous Brushes, exploring the relation between color and sound; lectures and recitals at Shanghai Symphony Hall, Shanghai Concert Hall, and Shanghai Mercedes Benz Arena; a featured performance at the Leo Brouwer Festival in Havana, Cuba; Philippe Manoury’s double-piano concerto at the Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra. Chai has recorded for labels such as Naxos, ArpaViva and MSR. In 2010, she released her debut recording, New York Love Songs, featuring interpretations of works by Cage and Ives among others. Chai is the founder and president of FaceArt Institute of Music in Shanghai since 2010 and piano faculty at UC Berkeley.

The program Humanity First: We Are All In This Together is a strong reflection during this pandemic period. It includes themes of global warming and Covid-19 responses.

About the Program

With the world going more and more divided and nationalistic over the last few years, in a strange way, the pandemic is almost like a reset button by nature, to remind us that we are all in this together.

Globally, we are all experiencing very similar circumstances, such as quarantine life, the lack of PPE and basic needs for survival, the lack of in-person contact, the lack of jobs and security, the fears of uncertainty, and the yearning for health, security, love, and connection.

Globally, we are experiencing the same kind of difficulties, and yet trying to survive, to adapt, to thrive, and to hold on to hope. It is a heightened time for us to remember to unite together as earthlings. We must take care of our earth, global health systems, global strategizing, communications, and plannings, in order to survive together. We much work together to slow down global warming, and to create a safer environment for the whole world to live in. During this pandemic, it is even more so the chance to reveal the perseverance of humans beings as a race. The earthlings will prevail if we stay together!

For many years, I have been creating thematic programs for issues to reflect our current society, such as my global warming program, Acqua Alta, with NASA data visualizations. Last year, I gave a TEDx talk on when Classical Music Meets Technology, which is essentially what I do as a pianist. Over the years, I asked myself, what’s the true purpose of being an artist, a performing artist? Art needs to reflect the current state of our world and to raise awareness in people about social issues. It’s something an artist could do to make a difference!

The pandemic and climate change can be looked at as scientific topics, yet they are also extremely human experiences. We are all living with it, enduring it, and at the same, trying to find ways to improve it.

The neuroscientist António R. Damásio wrote in his book, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, “Emotions and the feelings are not a luxury, they are a means of communicating our states of mind to others. But they are also a way of guiding our own judgments and decisions. Emotions bring the body into the loop of reason.” In other words, modern science has discovered, emotion is an even more powerful way to drive our decisions.

Music moves people on an emotional level, beyond logic. That is why I believe my program will make an impact on the audiences who go to the performance. On top of that, I have incorporated visual elements throughout the program, including NASA data visualizations. Visual stimulation is the primary sense of humans. Thus, I believe, my audiovisual program will have an even bigger force to impact the audiences.