May 15 – 8:05 AM
I have been thinking about styles of speaking – choice words – and my mind goes back to the speech at our first banquet in Beijing given by Charles LeBlanc. His reference to May 4 was quite interesting. The comment was directed to us in Nexus. To me, he was letting us know that politics is a sensitive issue to the Chinese and, more subtly, they had the capacity for reference – love – human qualities that deserve our attention and respect. By saying this to us in front of the Chinese he let them know he was giving us a command, a guide for our behavior. He was displaying his authority not only to us but the Chinese. The choice of example was historically distant enough to be safe. (The 1919 revolt will never be purged). But, more importantly it was a revolt by young people bringing new ideas to an old system. Even more, the student demonstration was more symbolic then climatic. It had the aura of martyrdom. A beginning. A compliment to us, a possible definition of us for the Chinese. I sensed a moment of importance – a guide for ourselves and our hosts. His presentation was perfectly balanced. There was nothing in his manner which distracted from his message.
A very relaxed morning. It is good to listen to music and drink tea. The Minorities Orchestra plays of piece for drum solo an orchestra. Five Tom Tom’s – 2 Toms – small crash cymbals – suspended cymbal – two large Toms and cloud gongs. Terrific piece. The variety of instrument sounds is immense. We go to the Conservatory – good arrangements for xylophone, timpani,snare drum and piano of “Sabre Dance” and the entire “March to the Scaffold” from “Symphonie Fantastique” for piano, timpani and snare drum. Many performances of traditional music. The most impressive and expressive, is a young girl who plays Pipa – a great artist. A string quartet plays the same piece we have been playing on marimba and xylophone. I think they must have prepared it for us. The atmosphere at the Conservatory is somewhat strained – I think partly because of our host. The piano player who came to our second concert here. A very defensive fellow. Also, since our arrival in Shanghai we have been accompanied by three or four people on many of our excursions. Kwang Chao did not come this morning. Mrs. Chong seems as usual vaguely uncomfortable in her job. She probably wants to be someplace else – maybe with her husband. It throws a blanket on everything.
Guy says there is no Chinese word for Yes. My reasoning behind this interesting fact is that Yes is a commitment to the future. No is shorter lived. A popular salesman’s technique is to get the prospective buyer to say yes to an innocuous question and once that is established (the yes) it becomes increasingly difficult for a person to say no. The Chinese do have a word for no.
The banquet is at a restaurant in town – really good and different dishes. I am seated amongst various officials whose names I wrote down phonetically, but forty years layer, are no longer pertinent. Guy and John set on either side of Mrs. Ma. The usual speeches – dear friends from Canada – ( by now they must know we are all from the United States) – we learned so much – inspiring – your successful concerts – come back soon we hope – you do etc. etc. etc. At first, the speeches were interesting in their stiltedness. They become boring and are now embarrassingly obsequious.
We got drunk with Guy in the hotel bar. He informs us that Kwang Chao came to his room just as he was getting ready for bed and told him she wanted to come to Canada and she would marry someone from Nexus in order to facilitate the move. He explained that she could only apply for permission to study in Canada and then make the move. She answers Guy that there has been no trouble with her being on our floor and she is thankful that she has met us. She enjoyed traveling with us very much.
Narita airport. Our departure from China was handled expeditiously and a two hour flight brings us to 55°F temperature and rain. My dreams of a long sushi bar lunch is put to rest with immigration hassles and check-in time. I’ll have to wait for our meal on the flight to Seoul or something at the hotel. I passed up the lunch on our China Airlines flight. At the end of our dinner in Shanghai we were served two soups. A piquant soup with a huge 4 inch crown of egg white with an edible flower on top and a warm fruit soup with egg white ducks with vegetable beaks and eyes floating on top. Mr. Li Ming Quang is warming up a bit and relaxing. Guy later suggests he may have been hit hard during the Cultural Revolution. He probably had a large library of Western literature and music confiscated and have spent a few years shoveling shit in the country. He will participate in the Toronto International Festival concert on June 3. I want to go and hear him play.
I invite Mrs. Ma to a corn roast at our house and explain how we prepare our corn. She is delighted. Mr. Long, the choral conductor, and I have a real nice buzz going and warmly embrace as we are leaving the room. He is coming to Toronto in three weeks to visit his brother, mother and father whom he is not seen in 40 years!
Well, that part of the trip is over and out and without being mean or unappreciative, it was rather like any other gig. A chemical engineer from Copenhagen asked what I had learned about Chinese music. I told him that people all of the world play, some better than others, some enjoy it more and the sound of Chinese music is interesting, some not. He understood. What can one learn from another’s music unless you are a composer and can borrow certain modes or rhythms for your own music. As a performer, I am content that the Chinese have great players who are striving to express themselves just as we are.
Northwest Orient flight 9 to Seoul “Shawn lay Bah!”
PS – Unbidden, the Danish chemical engineer told me about the endless speeches at their banquets – “how much we have learned” – “friendship between Denmark and China”– the lack of spontaneity and creativity in what they say. I almost fell over laughing, while explaining our series of banquets and the same speeches. All of them so safe and troublefree and meaningless. You would think that after two of those speeches their guests would get the message. Perhaps they don’t care (beyond sounding diplomatic).