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ZERO GRASSES: Workshop & Concert by Vocalist/Multi-Instrumentalist/Composer Jen Shyu

December 13, 2019 @ 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm EST

$20 – $30
Jen Shyu photo by Caterina Di Perri

CRS (Center for Remembering & Sharing) presents CROSSING BOUNDARIES Concert Series Vol. 11: ZERO GRASSES, curated, created and performed by Steinway Artist, Guggenheim Fellow and USA Fellow JEN SHYU (photo by Caterina Di Perri).

This powerful autobiographical work arose out of an intense period of self-reflection following the sudden death of JEN SHYU’s father and a visit to a fertility clinic. Effortlessly weaving together music, monologue and video projection, SHYU traces the threads of her life to explore the painful terrain of expectation, ambition, longing and love.

Commissioned by John Zorn and premiered Oct 30 at National Sawdust, ZERO GRASSES reunites SHYU with Romanian director Alexandru Mihail, who also directed her acclaimed one-woman show Nine Doors, which premiered at National Sawdust in 2017 and was reprised at last year’s Resonant Bodies Festival. The piano for this concert is being provided with generous support by Steinway.

Prior to the concert, starting at 6:30 pm, Jen will lead a short participatory Intermedia Workshop for the audience. The performance itself will begin at 8 pm. The workshop is open to all artists and art lovers alike. Everyone will be writing, singing, moving, acting, and improvising, so please try to wear comfy clothes and shoes, and feel free to bring any instruments or just bring yourselves.

In honor of Jen’s father, and in partnership with WEARTH, for every ticket sold to this performance, a tree will be planted in the Tsu Pin Shyu | 徐澤濱 Forest in a conserved forest in Saskatchewan, Canada.


Composition, vocals, piano, sound design, Japanese biwa, Taiwanese moon lute, dance: Jen Shyu
Director: Alexandru Mihail
Set and Projection Design: Kristen Robinson and Kate Campbell
Costume Design: Elizabeth Caitlin Ward
Lighting Design: Solomon Weisbard
Keynote Operator: Neil Beckmann
Media Production: Kinetic Expression LLC

This is the eighth and final concert in the series during 2019 and will take place on December 13, 2019 at 8 pm at CRS.

Tickets are $25 in advance $30 at the door. Students and seniors with valid ID can purchase tickets for $20 at the door. Tickets are available online at crsny.org, by phone (212-677-8621), and at CRS.


ZERO GRASSES premiered at NATIONAL SAWDUST on Oct 30, 2019 as part of John Zorn’s Stone Commissioning Series.

“The title and seed of ZERO GRASSES came from my ongoing collaboration and conversations with Garin Nugroho, the great Indonesian filmmaker and stage director, who directed my first solo theatrical work, Solo Rites: Seven Breaths. In light of Seven Breaths and Nine Doors, we began to discuss the number zero and its power as a metaphor for loss and disconnection, as in the deterioration of humans’ ability to communicate with nature, to read the signs of nature, which is something I was already wanting to manifest artistically. So when John Zorn asked me to create a new work on October 30, 2019, for his series at National Sawdust, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to realize this vision.

Zero Grasses is dedicated to my dearest father, Tsu Pin Shyu | 徐澤濱 (January 19, 1941 – April 2, 2019), who passed away unexpectedly in his sleep in his favorite chair during a nap while I was on a research fellowship in Japan. I was informed via email from the local sheriff who arrived with 911 whom Mom called when she couldn’t wake up Dad. Before I left for Japan February of 2019, Zero Grasses was rooted in environmental concerns and an unforeseen ending of a long-term relationship when I turned 40. After rushing to Texas to take care of my mother and in the following months processing Dad’s death, I worked intensely with director Alexandru Mihail on shaping Zero Grasses. Its themes expanded to include legacy, family, race, sexuality, fertility vs. barrenness in land and in our bodies, technology’s effect on our connection with nature and to each other, our own conflicting ambitions, and an investigation of life when Mom handed me my childhood diaries from a shelf in Dad’s closet when we were cleaning it out and deciding what to keep of his and what to give away. In performing this work, I am constantly reminded that it was Dad who inspired me to live life as I envision it. Zero Grasses is an hommage to all those who shape our lives in changing the world around us.”

— Jen Shyu

Watch the music video for one of the songs from the show, “Life As You Envision”:

YouTube player


Guggenheim Fellow, USA Fellow, Doris Duke Artist, Fulbright scholar, multilingual vocalist-composer-instrumentalist-dancer JEN SHYU is “one of the most creative vocalists in contemporary improvised music” (The Nation). Born in Peoria, Illinois, to Taiwanese and East Timorese immigrants, she was the first female and vocalist as bandleader on Pi Recordings, now having produced seven albums. A Stanford University graduate, she speaks 10 languages and has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, BAM, Metropolitan Museum of Art, etc. Her acclaimed album “Song of Silver Geese” (Pi 2017) was among NY Times’ “Best Albums of 2017.”

Shyu has won commissions and support from NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, MAP Fund, US-Japan Creative Artists Fellowship from Japan-US Friendship Commission and National Endowment for the Arts, Jerome Foundation, Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works, Exploring the Metropolis, New Music USA, Jazz Gallery, and Roulette, as well as fellowships from the Fulbright Scholar Program, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, Hermitage Artist Retreat, Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Korean Ministry of Sports, Culture, and Tourism.

She premiered ZERO GRASSES October 30, 2019, at National Sawdust on John Zorn’s Commissioning Series. She’s touring her solo work Nine Doors–one of NY Times’ “5 Standout Shows” (2018)–on her 50-state +DC tour of creativity workshops in rural towns across America, promoting cross cultural / generational exchange. Jen Shyu is a Steinway Artist.



Now in its second year, CROSSING BOUNDARIES is a performance series devoted to creating unforgettable live art experiences that dissolve boundaries between performers and audiences, traditional and new music, and the local and the global, bringing people together and promoting the awareness that we each possess a limitless creativity inside us. 

The 2019 season of CROSSING BOUNDARIES is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and administered by LMCC. LMCC empowers artists by providing them with networks, resources, and support, to create vibrant, sustainable communities in Manhattan and beyond.

LMCC logo NYC Dept of Cultural Affairs logo



December 13, 2019
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm EST
$20 – $30
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CRS (Center for Remembering & Sharing)
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CRS (Center for Remembering & Sharing)
123 4th Ave FL3
New York, NY 10003 United States
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