Part of the Listen to This Audio Guide
I traveled to Beijing in the spring of 2008, curious to see whether — as others had claimed — the future of classical music lay in China. I begin my account with a description of the National Spirit Achievers Awards, at which the composer Chen Qigang was one of the honorees (pp. 159-60). The event was underwritten in part by Mercedes-AMG, and I thought I could sense a slight awkwardness in the voices of the German car executives as they repeated the vaguely sinister slogan of the night, WILL POWER DREAM. Here are other photographs from the ceremony:
Chen Qigang is the man in the overcoat on the right:
Chen studied in Paris with Olivier Messiaen, and many of his works have a French tinge, although they also absorb elements of traditional Chinese music. This is Reflet d'un temps disparu:
The influence of Messiaen is less obvious in "You and Me," the pop song that he composed for the Olympics in 2008, although there's a touch of Debussy in the piano at 1:05:
Tiananmen Square at twilight:
Art and politics in close proximity: on the right, the National Center for the Performing Arts (pp. 161-62), and, on the left, the Great Hall of the People.
Another shot of the "Egg":
The interior of the Egg's concert hall:
Over the courtyard of the Central Conservatory (pp. 163-65) hangs a poster of China's musical heroes. In the picture below, you see in the top row the composers Guo Wenjing, Chen Qigang, Tan Dun, and Chen Yi, all of whom attended the conservatory together in the late seventies and early eighties.
More modern-music heroes in a music shop and coffee house near the school. I don't think Morton Feldman would be happy to be positioned underneath Boulez:
In the period of the Cultural Revolution, Madame Mao famously banned the tuba. The restriction has been lifted:
A scene from the Maoist ballet Red Detachment of Women (p. 166):
Tan Dun is the most famous of contemporary Chinese composers, notable for having given a populist spin to avant-garde techniques derived from John Cage. Here is an excerpt from the Water Concerto (p. 167):
A video documenting "One World, One Dream," Tan Dun's submission to the song competition of the Beijing Olympics. The Cage influence has disappeared entirely: