Archive for December, 2012

Tiananmen Square

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 Ferroud, Bergère Captive

A funny thing happened at Tiananmen Square. As described in the previous post and after playing in the pedestrian tunnel, we went up and lingered for a while behind police barricades that protected the locked gates of The Forbidden City.

That first night, I couldn’t really figure out what all the fuss was about, and why there were so many people crowding the sidewalk in the hot, humid air. For sure it was amazing being there – we were in such a wondrous state of shock to find ourselves finally in Beijing – and I had fun trying to figure out how many undercover cops there were, taking photos of the tourists on their i-Pads.

It was only the next day when we were trying to sort out what we might do over the next couple of days that I mentioned I really wanted to play flute in Tiananmen Square, and record a bit. It turns out that, unbeknownst to me, that’s where we actually were the night before! I got teased relentlessly over the next few days for being so clued out, which actually was pretty funny…has that kind of thing ever happened to you? Not the teasing part so much, as having been someplace amazing and not actually realized at the time?

Anyways, a few days later we did make it back to Tiananmen. It was late one morning, after the heat had kicked in and tourist groups had descended on the massive open plaza. The line-up for Mao’s Tomb was hopelessly long, so we just kind of wandered around for a while, trying not to lose each other in such a sea of humanity. It was kind of like Toronto’s Canadian National Exhibition, but without the arcades and roller coasters. As pictured above, an identifying flag might have been useful!

As we were leaving, I realized that I still hadn’t played my flute, so doubled back to courageously set up and play. I wasn’t sure if it would be such a wise idea to open a case and, uh, start assembling a shiny metal object in broad daylight in Tiananmen. So, as I played, kneeling over my music in the open square, I was keeping my eye open for approaching security in case there was a problem…it wasn’t the first time that I half-expected to feel the clasp of a white-gloved hand of the law on my shoulder.

Mid-phrase I glanced up and made eye contact with a father and his young son, who had paused and stood a little ways off, listening as I played.

No security, no hassles, just a bit of appreciative applause from my attentive little audience as I dis-assembled my flute and hastily packed up my things to rejoin my patiently awaiting friends!

Tiananmen Square’s Acoustic Haven

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Debussy, Syrinx

Our first night in Beijing, we of course headed straight across town to check out Tian’an Men Square. Turns out the gates were locked tight, but we had a great adventure and caught a vivid glimpse of present-day China.

Just as we were nearing our destination, I spotted the entrance to this largely deserted underground passageway, and we actually ended up hanging out for quite a while, making music and meeting some young students who happened to wander through. The vibe was relaxed and informal – even some workers and the guards on night duty took a smoke break and let us do our thing, as enraptured as we were with the heavenly acoustics!

Hanging out on a bench at the far end of the tunnel, some vagrant teens were partying away happily for the duration, their voices adding an unruly backdrop to this otherwise pastoral recording of Debussy’s Syrinx.

Finally we carried on, heading back above-ground to brave the crowds streaming along the darkened streets towards Tian’an Men Square and the gates of The Forbidden City, a veritable river of humanity in the night!

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