Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blog 6: Last day in Kunming

Our last full day in Kunming, Yunnan province. We're headed out to visit the Yunnan Provincial Song & Dance Ensemble. As we pull up to the gates, I can hear a very Charles Ives-ian mish mash of traditional Chinese music, western symphonic and vocal pop music leaking out the open windows of their six story building. We climbed up five stories, panting in the extreme heat and humidity, to the office of the director, CAO XIN HUA. He graciously let me attend the concert rehearsal of their cultural / traditional ensemble. Each soloist in the band stepped forward and demonstrated their instrument for us. It was beautiful, if not surreal in that Beethoven orchestral passages were being rehearsed a couple of floors below... triple forte at the same time! Then they went through a new piece for us that blended the traditional Yunnan with western sensibilities. Hmmm, sound familiar?

Afterward, we went into Mr. Hua's office and listened to his own brand of pop music, drank tea and smoked cigarettes through a bong! (Both of which I quit long ago). It turns out that he not only directs the Ensemble, but he's (according to his business card) "Country 1st Business Tenor Singer"! So, dizzy with smoke and the piercing volume of his stereo system, I asked to borrow a guitar and share some of my music with him. An impromptu jam session broke out and before long, members of the Ensemble, Mr. Hua, Denis and myself are banging out a bizarrely cool rendition of Ancient Voices. We've got it on tape!
Afterwards, I took us all to lunch where they introduced us to some VERY spicy dishes that made the steam rise off the tops of or heads. Fun!

We toasted each other, said our farewells and left for the Dyzizhu Instrument Factory I was dying to see. My first impression? The Chinese are definitely not afraid to use STRONG chemicals in their everyday life. Better living through chemistry? Our throats were closing down reflexively. However, we braved the toxins and went for the tour. This was a very narrow six story building with three or four very small rooms on each floor, each dedicated to a particular step in the manufacturing of Chinese flutes. It was a true family affair, with little kids, husbands & wives, all living and working together. Besides a workbench and racks of various instruments in all stages of completion, there was a bed, a stove and a pee bucket in each room. Despite the close proximity of everything and everyone, the instruments were among the finest I've seen here. After watching the construction from start to finish, I bought one in each key they made to bring home to use in the Survivor score. We posed for a shot with them (for them) and they just emailed me this shot:

Notice that Eric has his hands backwards but that's O.K. 'cause he's camera crew and just gonna hang his on the wall anyway.

Here's some nice pics of the instruments they manufacture:

Tomorrow, it's farewell to Fran and Kunming and we'll be off to Urumqi in the XINJAING province...about as far west as you can fly to and still be in China!


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