Monday, June 22, 2009

Back In the USA

After two weeks in China, I am back in the land of forks and knives. The trip was a true whirlwind of awesomeness. The group of 71 PLU students and faculty went to Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu and Shanghai to play concerts in each city and look at the scenery along the way. If you’d like to know about all the sightseeing I’d be happy to tell you but as this is a music blog, I’m going to keep this post limited to that aspect of the adventure.

As I was anticipating, sharing jazz with unfamiliar listeners was a blast. In Xi’an particularly, the audience went absolutely crazy. Probably the closest I’ll ever be to rock stardom and that’s okay. Despite my varied experience playing music, this is the first sort of tour I’ve gone on and what a first taste! Each facility we played at was different from the next and of course, the best of all was the Great Wall of China. Not only did we play on the 4,000 mile partition, we played during a windstorm of epic proportions. Apparently the ancestors didn’t approve of our modern sounds.

Musically, China is an interesting combination of Eastern and Western styles. This is true for just about everything there but I thought is was interesting hearing Pearl Jam in the hotel gift shop shortly after seeing a Chinese flute/pipe player perform live at a restaurant. Another example of this is the music shop in Shanghai where I purchased my liuqin or Chinese mandolin. One half of the store was filled with guitars and band instruments, the other with gongs, erhus (Chinese violin equivalent) and pipas (Chinese lute equivalent).

I’ve written a few times about the never-ending abyss that is Western music. Popular, classical, and all that fall in to this category make up a more vast set of sounds than we can imagine. But focusing on Western music is often like looking only at the Milky Way instead of the entire universe. There are so many other styles of music, built on entirely different sets of fundamental principles. This is a bit overwhelming and I don’t claim to ever become an expert on any other musical system. Still, it’s important to know what else is out there at the very least.

It would take more than two weeks abroad to really digest anything substantial about the Chinese musical tradition but still, I’m now very interested and hope to spend this summer picking up recordings and teaching myself the liuqin. Speaking of summer, after my month-long hiatus, I plan on writing here with consistency again. Also, I may do some contributions to this sports blog a friend of mine has set up recently.

Lastly, congrats to Luke Freedman on getting the last subheading which was from The Beatles' "Hello Goodbye." Who’s up to the next challenge? And here’s the latest music review. It’s of the New Pornographers Twin Cinema album.

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