Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 9 — share music that is positive

This came from the song I have just shared with my niece Christine Parkes on Facebook which had this message attached: Love and understanding will take us further than hate and division.

And see the beauty in the diverse cultures of the world and this country, and (in this case) our neighbour New Zealand. It is a short and sweet instrumental piece, an excerpt of the traditional Chinese piece ‘White Snow in Spring’ performed by Wu Man at St Mary of the Angels, Wellington, in 2017. White Snow in Spring first appeared in 1895 (during the Qing dynasty) as a hand-written score in pipa master Li Fangyuan’s New Collection of Thirteen Pipa Scores.

If that leaves you wanting to hear more Chinese music there are many examples on this blog! For example: way back in 2013 I posted Music for the Moon Festival. One piece in that post:


And moving back to music many of my age and background would relate to — a song full of what might appear to be disillusion coming with age, but is at the same time really uplifting. Perhaps just an expression of limitations and humility — but that is a good lesson in my opinion. Looked at life from both sides now. I really don’t know life at all.

Far better than certainty or any kind of fundamentalism. Here we see the mind of an adult in this troubling world.

Just enjoy! Chinese doing unexpected things…

I like to post Chinese doing unusual things, as an antidote to the political norm these days. Preferably Chinese doing amazing and brilliant unusual things. Entertaining too, it goes without saying. Take the first one. I posted it on Facebook a couple of days back with this note:

More Chinese doing dastardly things to charm us with music. Careful. You might be lured into thinking they are actually human and immensely talented. That would never do! Or you might just sit back and enjoy something brilliant, and bugger the politicians!

And then there is Zhou Shen, whom we have met before. This is really unexpected, and it is in English:

Here he teams up with two others — and yes, I think you know the song:

The last offering on this post is local and classical, though it no doubt includes a number of Mainland Chinese background. I noted:

That Hall I have known so well! Been on that stage more than once over the years, from being in the choir way back in the 50s to occasionally getting a prize on Speech Night, to much much later sitting there in academic dress as a staff member on Speech Night…

The orchestra is so good nowadays! Much more than Rugby and Rowing at the old place, eh! Though I no longer mock those things either….

And a note to all those who have wrung their hands and had conniptions in recent years — Western culture, in this instance Mozart, is very much alive and well and being done proud even with so many Asian faces looking back at us from their instruments! Good stuff!

About that violinist in the first video

Since this post was published I have been looking into this amazing artist some more. A comment on one of his YouTube videos says: “Can this man get any more perfect? It’s not only that he’s talented as f but he’s also such a kind, fun and genuine artist.” I note also that he appears on South Korean as well as Chinese TV.

So, for more I checked (of course) Wikipedia.

Henry Lau (born October 11, 1989), commonly referred to mononymously as Henry, is a Canadian singer, songwriter, actor, entertainer and classical violinist based in South Korea and China. He debuted in 2008 as a member of Super Junior-M and launched his solo career in 2013 with Trap. His original soundtrack “It’s You” released in 2017 became the #1 top-streamed Korean OST on Spotify for two consecutive years in 2018 and 2019.

Henry made his Hollywood debut in 2019 with the film A Dog’s Journey produced by Amblin Entertainment, the sequel to the 2017 film A Dog’s Purpose. In 2020, the action/fantasy movie “Double World” nominated for “Best Visual Effects” and “Best Action Choreography” at the 39th Hong Kong Film Award starring Henry premiered on Netflix and China’s streaming service iQiyi, becoming the first movie in mainland China’s film history to achieve simultaneous global release…

And here is the young Henry Lau:

Call me naive, but why can’t our focus be on things like this music, which we can all share?

The world really is mad — and I refer here both to our lot and the others… In politics we seem too often to fall into utter incompetence. I think particularly of our relations in the West with the now powerful China — back where it was centuries ago, perhaps, as a world hegemon — and I am not taking either side. All I know is that I have been able to speak heart to heart, person to person, with people from Mainland China just one mortal being to another. Is it that hard? Why is it that hard? How come our leaders so often seem so dumb?

Well, I do know that this music is superior to all their politicking….

The last two are part of a co-operation between the Carolina International Orchestra in Raleigh North Carolina and members of the China National Orchestra Touring North Carolina in 2013. I wonder if that orchestra is still going; their last Facebook post is 2016.

Since writing that (last night) I have found a back-story in a North Carolina newspaper (4 October 2013).

The opening concert of the new Carolina International Orchestra — with guest artists and conductor from the China National Orchestra — brought the house to its feet again and again Tuesday evening.

“Trans-Pacific Melodies,” an East-meets-West concert presented by this new orchestra, had its debut at Lee Auditorium Tuesday night. It was the first leg on a tour heading up the East Coast.

He Jianguo, permanent conductor of the Chinese orchestra, led performers playing both Western instruments like violins and violas and traditional Chinese instruments many in the audience were hearing for the first time — though the artists themselves are among the elite, at the top in their field.

This new orchestra — blending music, instruments and artists from East and West — is a joint venture begun by concert master Yang Xi and fellow violinist Jenny Zhou following the success of last spring’s first collaboration. In February, musicians from North Carolina hosted visiting Chinese instrumentalists in a series of concerts shared with musicians from the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra….

Ties between Moore County and China’s Hunan Province were forged in World War II when 2nd Lt. Robert Hoyle Upchurch, a Flying Tiger pilot from High Falls, lost his life in aerial combat helping China fight the Japanese invasion.

This concert, featuring its unique and international blend of musicians from China and the United States, is a legacy of that bond, as Blake said just before the Arts Council’s Chris Dunn welcomed the crowd.

“It is such an amazing story — you know he wrote home and said, ‘Don’t worry if I don’t make it home. I’m not married, and in two or three years you will forget me,’” Blake said. “The Chinese built a beautiful monument to him, and now the world knows Hoyle Upchurch.”

An organization dedicated to building cultural, educational and business links — the Carolina China Council — grew from these events. North Carolina and Hunan Province are sister states….

That there is nothing about the orchestra on FB since 2016 makes me wonder whether the Trump era was curtains for this wonderful cross-cultural project.


So I have done a little digging and note that North Carolina has a Democrat Governor, re-elected in 2020. The Carolina China Council was still active in 2019 at least.

On October 4, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper congratulated the opening of the 2019 Raleigh China Arts Festival by proclaiming September 29-October 5, 2019 as Carolina China Council and China Arts Festival tenth anniversary week. Secretary of State Mrs. Elaine Marshall attended the opening ceremony of the 2019 Raleigh China Arts Festival at the Fletcher Opera Theater, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh and welcomed the world class performers to North Carolina in her opening remarks. Distinguished performers from China, Italy and the United States presented a two-hour world class musical gala to a full-house audience. Mrs. Kacy Hunt, Chairwoman of Raleigh Artsplosure which organizes the annual Raleigh Arts Festival, congratulated the success of this year’s Raleigh China Arts Festival. She is looking forward to a long-lasting partnership between Artsplosure and Carolina China Council to promote East-West exchanges of arts and culture.

Interesting — but nothing in the news section since 2019. COVID would no doubt have affected them.

Back to “The Music of the Night”

Yet another connection, as the competition “Super-Vocal” is from Hunan TV.

Super–Vocal (Chinese: 声入人心; pinyin: Shēng rù rénxīn) is a Chinese reality television created and produced by Hunan TV and iQiyi. It is a singing competition focused on classically trained singers, singing both operatic and musical pieces. It features 36 male singers, with six winners after a total of 100 days of training and filming. “Super-Vocal” Season 1 premiered on November 2, 2018, while Season 2 premiered on July 19, 2019.

The singer Ayanga (b. 1989) is Mongolian, Sheng Yunlong (b. 1990) is from Shandong Province.

June 2006 really surprises me — 3

Believe it or not I do not spend all my days combing my archives, but with the new month I first checked that I did have a June 2006 archive and then, having found it, surprised myself! So this is the third of 3 reposts! I may add in some pics…

John Baker’s questions

If you are at all interested in writing, and enjoy good writing from a real writer, visit John Baker.

You may recall he asked five questions:

1. Why do you blog?

Because it is better than muttering to myself in the bathroom. Because I am addicted to teaching. Because I need to rant in Howard’s Australia. Because I have far too much time on my hands. Because writing is the best kind of thinking. Because “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” (That was E M Forster, I think.) Because “I blog, therefore I am.” See also Reasons to journal.

2. Which author and/or book has most influenced you?

See My canon. And it really probably is the Bible and Shakespeare. Sad, isn’t it?

3. Which three blogs do you most visit?


1. Thin Potations. It’s a habit, really. He’s been a bit slack lately though. [Since gone private.]
2. Ahmad Shuja: MyScribbles: Write-ups of an Afghan because he is refreshingly honest, amazing for a person of his age, and an Afghan, and can tell me about the Afghan cricket team.
3. Aluminium because she is an English teacher and used to be a Diary-X friend, oh for ages now it seems. (And she reads me too.)

Actually I visit all those blogs on my blogroll. Often. Including John Baker’s, obviously.

4. Why do you read fiction?

Some just for delight in plot, character and language. Some because they are more true than non-fiction. Some because they can take me into world-views and milieus I could never otherwise experience.

5. What makes you laugh?

Fawlty Towers, no matter how often I see it. The items in my Diversions links to the right. The fact that the majority of Australians still think John Howard is a really really good Prime Minister…

No, that last one makes me want to cry.

And speaking of history…

I approached this week’s Bulletin with due cynicism when I saw it featured The 100 most influential Australians. Oh yes, I thought, wank-time! But I was wrong. Panellists Julie McCrossin, Phillip Knightley and Michael Cathcart have done such a good job I have listed this among my Best Reads of 2006, as you can see. Of course we could all suggest others, and maybe want to scrap some, but what a good introduction it is to our shared past and present, and a great tool for teachers, I would have thought. I’ll certainly be alerting my coachees to it.

Yes, John Howard is of course there, but I loved the positioning that happens on his page: you’ll have to buy the magazine to see what I mean. He is kind of, well, “buried”. This is the content on JH:

John Howard, the most relentless politician in Australian public life, has transformed the way Australians view themselves and the way the international community views Australia in the first decade of the 21st century. A lifelong conservative, he began his prime ministership (now second only to that of Robert Menzies in duration) with a pledge to confront “political correctness”. The result has been the “history wars” that replaced Paul Keating’s big pictures on reconciliation, a republic and Asian engagement with a nationalist agenda. Many young Australians in particular have responded by draping themselves in the flag — complete with Union Jack in the corner — as they tramp the world. Howard redefined Liberalism with his 2001 vow that “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” underlining a willingness to confront a world awash with asylum-seekers in his quest for domestic votes, particularly those that were traditionally held by Labor. Howard’s defence and foreign policies have relied heavily on cementing the alliance with the United States. He has taken Australian troops to war in Iraq and Afghanistan in coalition with the US while also committing the military to neighbourhood trouble-spots, notably East Timor and the Solomon Islands. Howard has capitalised on a long period of economic prosperity by pursuing tough free-market reforms, introducing a GST, pursuing widespread privatisation of public assets, notably Telstra, and — having won power in both houses of parliament for the first time since the 1970s — moving the industrial relations balance from unions to business.

Very fair, I would have thought.

As you know, where JH sees “political correctness” I see “simple decency”, so naturally we differ. I am happy to see one of the most popular posts here in recent weeks has been PC but with a sense of humour. Go there to see where I stand: I think I am quite moderate, actually, and it is the current zeitgeist which is extreme, thanks to the Pauline Howard factor.

In the same issue, see also, speaking of zeitgeistGay but not happy, John.

Of course on the back page we have Tim B being the clown he usually is over those awfully funny “global warming” chappies and gals — funny to him, that is, but not to most reputable scientists, or even to most moderately well-informed general readers; but Tim can’t help himself, can he? It’s his party trick to be like this, after all. The mining and industrial sectors and their political puppets will as ever be well pleased with him, and his fans will wet themselves yet again. (*Stifles a yawn.*)

Excellent issue, nonetheless. But sadly irrecoverable in 2021!

Simon Schama on history

Thanks to the Arts & Letters Daily, I just read “The History Channeler” (sic) in the Washington Post.

In a 1991 New York Times piece headlined “Clio Has a Problem,” he savaged academic practices as stultifying, overspecialized and hopelessly biased against “dramatic immediacy.” And he satirized conventional historical argument in a passage that began:

“In 1968, Wendy F. Muggins published her seminal article on manorial social structure in 17th-century Fredonia. A decade later, this orthodoxy was substantially corrected by Cuthbert C. Buggins, based on a reading of Fredonian tax records. Unaccountably, neither Muggins nor Buggins consulted local manorial records . . .”

“Storytellers,” the storyteller lamented, had become “aggressively despised.”

History teaching that works, at school level anyway, is 90% story-telling at first, with a gradual increase in the critical and methodological emphasis — or should be. Once the story-telling element goes, so do most of the punters.

But “Empire of Good Intentions” is argument as well as story. It asks the question, Schama says, “about whether or not peoples other than yourself are better served by being run by you.” For the heartlessness of the ruling British, in the face of the potato famine, came in part from the imperial obsession with free trade.

“There was just one iron law: Let the market do its job,” the television Schama says. If the cost was a million dead, so be it.

It’s hard not to see lessons for the 21st century here, but the historian isn’t sanguine about them being heard. “In the halls of the energetic policymaker,” he says, history is viewed as “emasculating.” Thinking about the past, with all its unanticipated outcomes, is “such a bringer-down-to-earth exercise.” Abstract political theory is more attractive, because it frees you to act with optimism, to create “facts on the ground.”

But for Simon Schama, in the end, the lessons of history are not the point. The point is the continuous, interconnected drama of human lives.

The study of history is “a resistance against oblivion, against loss,” he says. “It tells you about what it was like to be a human being.”

Oh yes!

Music and memory

M left his collection of cassette tapes here, taking only his CDs. Today and tonight I have been playing some of them, and some of my own: there are quite a few!

Guess listening to the erhu on a winter night has brought this on. Naturally The “Butterfly Lovers” Violin Concerto is among the ones I have played; I love it. There are “oddities” too, like Beethoven’s Ninth performed by the Shanghai Symphony in Mandarin.

And I have been reading the most wonderful book. But I will tell you about that later.

Lord Malcolm has been in hospital again, but is out now. And I caught up with PK today, whose yachting adventures have been interesting to say the least. Without knowing the connection to M, he ended up spending a considerable period in Laurieton, where M is right now. We took a walk over to M’s Sydney address and watered the plants, a duty of mine while M is away.

And one more

From 14 June 2006

Listening to the erhu on a winter night

A warming vegetable and barley broth for dinner — lamb shanks at the Mountbatten Hotel after coaching last night — and a hot bath, then to the computer. On Classic FM they just played a Chinese piece, “Reflection of the Moon on Er Lake”. I have heard it many times before; anyone who has ever listened to Chinese music — and you really should — knows this sublime, haunting melody. It is also translated as “Moon Reflected on the Erquan Fountain”, as it is called in this program note.

The place is famous for the beautiful Fountain, and Hua Yanjun, an old, poor but talented folk musician, regularly played there. The listener was deeply moved by one of his sorrowful, beautiful melodies that depicts the scenery and the feeling it evokes. It also expresses a sense of beauty, peace and tranquility. The music is at times as quiet as still water in a lake and at other times as exciting as a gushing Fountain. It is as reflective as it is evocative and exhilarating. The listener is free to arrive at his [own] interpretation.

And the erhu is such a beautiful instrument. It goes back to the Tang Dynasty, a thousand years.

And speaking of Chinese, it is now fourteen years since M[ichael Xu] and I moved here to Surry Hills, sixteen since I met him soon. He is no longer here, of course, though well and truly around. I really owe him everything, you know. When I wrote the final version of that fiction story on the page tabbed at the head of this blog I was not yet fifty, and believed I would not live past fifty for very long. Perhaps I didn’t intend to. But here I still am, and my fiftieth birthday here in Surry Hills is a very happy memory.

Winter night thoughts.