This weekend, the seminal Beijing band Chui Wan will launch their (self-titled) second album after an extensive U.S tour. Their new single, The Sound of Wilderness, debuted on NPR last week - quite possibly a milestone for the Chinese indie scene. The album's highlights include the seven-minute closer "Beijing is Sinking", a swirling, chaotic song about staying afloat in a torrent of change. An apt metaphor, perhaps, for all the musicians in Beijing's fiercely iconoclastic indie underground. Initial reviews for the album are buoyant. It's seen as a coming-of-age moment for the band, for its influential record label Maybe Mars, and perhaps even for the small, vibrant Beijing indie community. So let's turn back the clock to the early 2000s, to post-SARS Beijing, and see how we got here. [more inside]
If Chick Chick is Rong I don't wanna be right. By Chinese pop legend Wang Rong Rollin.You gotta admit it's a step up from doing patriotic songs about China's claims to the Daioyu Islands like she did last year. (Send all blame for this here.)
Kat Chow, with NPR's Code Switch, put together a short piece on the history and the prevalence of the well-known nine note "stereotypical Asian theme." As described in a 2005 Straight Dope forum question: You know, the one that goes dee dee dee dee duh duh dee dee duh. Featured heavily in braindead Hollywood flicks made by clueless directors who want to give a scene an "oriental" feel. Also a variation of it can be heard in David Bowie's "China Girl." [more inside]
"Beijing-based music critic Wang Xiaofeng says that when he heard Lao Qiang for the first time about 18 years ago, it reminded him of heavy metal: very physical and somewhat operatic."
WIRED has been running a fascinating series: Olympic Physics: Can Runners Benefit From Drafting?, Scoring the Decathlon, New [Swimming] Platform Is No Chip Off The Old Block [more inside]
♫ As young as 18, I'd already written the application to join the party, but I was too embarrassed to turn it in to the party branch. I've studiously read the party constitution countless times - always felt I wasn't worthy of the party's requirements. ♫ Applying to Join the Chinese Communist Party : a music video (w/ English subtitles)
Red Song King Hao Di (Good Brother) sings "Without the Communist Party There Would Be No New China" (traditional recording), "The Words of Chairman Mao are Memorized by Heart” (info and lyrics), "Lake Water". [more inside]
Songs by Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Katy Perry are among those newly banned by China's culture ministry. Chinese Internet sites must remove them by 15 September in the interests of "national cultural security". Last May China banned a Mongolian protest song and arrested the student who made it, while Tibetan singer Tashi Dhondup was sentanced to one year and seven months’ imprisonment for producing a music album with “subversive songs”. Funnily enough, they also banned 'Guns'n'Roses' long awaited Chinese Democracy. No word yet on China Crisis.
Star-crossed lovers are of course a trope as old as storytelling itself, but Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, the Butterfly Lovers of Chinese mythology may be new to many. Also encompassing tropes such as Sweet Polly Oliver, the legend tells of the tragic love between two students in the Jin dynasty, one a girl disguised as a boy so she could attend school. [more inside]
"Pianist Liu Wei sits quietly to compose himself before plunging into the music. Then he takes off a sock. The 23-year-old, whose arms were amputated after a childhood accident, plays the piano with his toes."
Beat It, as performed by the (Chinese) Red Army Orchestra. Or maybe you would prefer 4 Minutes, or a little bit of context.
The Free Art and Technology (F.A.T.) Lab is an organization dedicated to enriching the public domain through the research and development of creative technologies and media. You may know them from such projects as How to build a fake Google Street View car, public domain donor stickers, internet famous class, the first rap video to end with a download source code link, or their numerous firefox add-ons (such as China Channel, Tourettes Machine, or Back to the future). FAT members have been hard at work standardizing various open source graffiti-related software packages, including Graffiti Analysis, Laser Tag, Fat Tag Deluxe and EyeWriter [previously] to be GML (Graffiti Markup Language) compliant. Fuck Google. Fuck Twitter. FuckFlickr. Fuck SXSW. Fuck 3D. FAT Lab is Kanye shades for the open source movement.
As is well known by now, the opening spectacle of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing featured a young girl's performance of Ode to the Motherland which was later revealed to be a lip-synch. The talented original singer Yang Peiyi was considered not "cute" enough. As is perhaps not so well known, however, the resultant flap resulted in the creation of a strict anti-lip-synch law in China, and now two Chinese pop stars face a $12,000 lip-synching fine. Some Chinese rockers have eagerly supported the creation of the ban on lip-synch, and, interestingly, the practice of lip-synching in Chinese musical entertainment had been under discussion in Chinese government circles since at least 2005.
Beijing's underground: "Five years ago, none of my students at Tsinghua or Beida had any interest in what we would call countercultural stuff," says Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Beida's -- that is, Peking University's -- Guanghua School of Management who owns D-22 and the Maybe Mars label. Today Mr. Pettis estimates that a quarter of his students have been to rock clubs and maybe 5% to 10% "are really knowledgeable and sophisticated."
"The Musical Cliché Figure Signifying The Far East", a.k.a. The Oriental Riff
Pronounced "chin" ("stringed instrument") or "goo chin" ("old stringed instrument"), the qin / guqin throughout its long history has been the musical instrument most prized by China's literati. They categorized it as one of their "four arts", collected it as an art object, praised its beautiful music, and built around it a complex ideology (compare its image in popular culture). No other instrument was described and illustrated in such detail, so often depicted in paintings, or so regularly mentioned in poetry. And its tablature documents the world's oldest detailed written instrumental music tradition, allowing both historically informed performance (requiring silk strings) of the many early melodies, and practical exploration of the relationship between Chinese music theory and music practice. The guqin silk string zither work of John Thompson. [more inside]
"‘Bad boy’ Cui Jian, [pronounced Sway Jen] China’s first long-haired rock icon, has pulled off another musical coup by becoming the first artist to adapt hip-hop to the mainland. His hoarse voice has long signified anger, confusion and pain, especially during the 1989 student revolt when his hit single, “Nothing to my Name”, became a veritable anthem. Despite the government’s attempts to silence his voice by routinely banning his concerts, Cui Jian carries on with the rapper’s staccato precision." EAST vs WEST – Hyper and Cui Jian collaboration, a Hyper remix of an original Cui Jian piece - with great Chinese papercut visuals. [more inside]
The future of classical music lies in China. Chinese enthusiasm for Western classical music is deep, says New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, but traditional Chinese music is older and more classical than anything in the West.
Apa Tani bleeding tubes filmed by Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf and Paro, Bhutan in 1936 from Frederick Williamson, are just two of the extraordinary offerings from the Digital Himalaya Project.
One of the songs on the Golden Record included on the two Voyager spacecraft was Flowing Water performed by Guan Pinghu on the guqin. The guqin, Confucius' favorite instrument, has been played in China for at least 3000 years. There's a lot of guqin videos out there but the two players I listen to the most are jts1702a and Charlie Huang (who is the main contributer to Wikipedia's excellent guqin article).
John Adams. NIXON IN CHINA. Excerpts: News has a kind of mystery. Act 1 Scene 3. Act 2 Scene 2a. I am the wife of Mao Tse Tung. Chairman Dances.
Fueled by Rice - Five recent grads from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's Unviersity recently set off from Beijing to bike across Asia and Europe. The goal of their bike trip is to spread international good will on the local level and advocate reducing carbon emissions and living slower-paced, more enjoyable lives. Along the way they will bike through rural areas and play music in villages. As they travel, the group is posting photos, a blog, and will attempt to get a podcast up and running. They've even got the site up in Chinese, though the site seems to be blocked for most folks in China.
With My Special Partner, I can drink my way back to the 7th Millenium BCE for ancient music, and the fish’ll tell me how to get home.
"Indeed, so rare and precious are the fruits of [the music industry's] labor that it, unique among the world's enterprises, deserves to have the rules of decent civil behavior suspended."
"Indeed, so rare and precious are the fruits of [the music industry's] labor that it, unique among the world's enterprises, deserves to have the rules of decent civil behavior suspended." Illegal (even by Taiwan's laws) search-and-seizure of university students' computers. 14 students will be made an example of and 'prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law'... for mp3s. In East Asia, where apparently the record companies have no one better to pick on than college students. *cough*