Thursday, May 31, 2012

things new

                           thing new #1
                                  We audited a Chinese Music history class, taught on the new Sichuan University Campus, a 40 minute drive across town.

                                                      Anna seemed to enjoy her first college course. And the scene, minus blackboards filled with chinese characters, was quite similar to our college classes--most students sat on the back row texting and listening to music, one teacher's pet sat on the front row and helped with AV, and none of them seemed nearly as interested in the subject matter as the professor wished them to be.

                                                       This chair belongs to the University, ok?

We got to watch clips of some pretty classic Chinese films as part of class.


                          Rickshaws do indeed still exist here and are used by many to get around the large campus.

                                   The little emperor. Oh. And his mom.

                                                                             thing new # 2 
Lessons are going well for all of us. Every day from 9:00-11:00 you will find us hard at work mastering new techniques. Well, mastering may be too kind. Becoming aware of our poor technique and drilled on eastern ones. We are lucky to have a whole slew of wonderful teachers with wonderful names. This is my teacher Melody--post erhu lesson and wanting to hold baby.

                                                    thing new #3

We discovered a restaurant where you pick what you want from bins on the street and put it all in a bowl. Said bowl is then dumped into a net in a huge boiling pot. When it's ready, they pour it back in the bowl along with  some of the scalding hot-sauce-numb-your-mouth-and-throat-soup concoction it was cooked in. Not the most sanitary literal hole in the wall we've ever eaten at, but man that stuff was flavorful.


The table of spices that went into the boil boil toil and trouble pot.


                                         Net to bowl in 2.3 seconds. And yes, that is a car. There are three walls on most chinese restaurants. Who needs four, really.

Serve your own rice and warm beverage. Is there even such thing as a too-big rice cooker? I think not.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

highlights from Luke's camera & sketchbook (first two weeks)

I took this picture on my first day in Chengdu. The fog/smog/mist/rain here is strange and wonderful and ever-present.

Jordan and I went to a really great solo Pipa performance.

We visited an ancient minority village (now tourist-ified) called HuangLong Xi. We don't know if the water from that fountain was supposed to actually make it into the cauldron or not.

Jordan playing an instrument called Da Ruan (Big Ruan). This is a fitting and descriptive name.
The very first night of recording! (That's my unmade bed. The ~150 square foot room that Jordan and I share is also our recording studio. It's pretty cozy.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

together again

It was with great delight that the Chipman three finally met up with the other MATTEO two in the lobby of the dormitories of Sichuan University about 12:00 am Tuesday morning.

Later that day, 9:30 am to be precise, we sat on one side of a long table on squeaky black leather chairs, an old woman pouring fresh tea and nodding as three other women discussed with us the logistics of our stay in serious voices. All three then proceeded to break character and squeal with delight when we pulled Anna out of her carrier. In fact, the term “squeal with delight” may very well have been created to describe most, if not all, the Chinese women we’ve met’s reactions to seeing her. They cannot help it.  Grown men and women, jumping up and down, pulling ridiculous faces, talking in high-pitched voices, and pulling out camera phones. If MATTEO becomes even slightly popular in China, all credit goes to our 9 month old.

The campus is lovely. And because we live at least 20 minutes walking distance away from any food or anywhere we need to go, and because we are all curious and perhaps not-yet familiar with the campus layout, we walk a lot.  Within the four large gates of Sichuan University’s campus we have walked by or through: a lotus pond in bloom, small crumbling alleys with heavy trees and hanging laundry, fields of bricks and shoes, a brightly colored kindergarten blaring English dance music, a small market of carts spilling over with massive mushrooms, squash, and dark green lettuce,  misty rain with drops that seem to hang suspended in the air, and rusty bicycles bouncing along the broken cement and cobbled roads.

There seem to be no traffic laws other than a perpetual game of chicken. You are free to drive either way on either side of the street. Honking is constant, in a very non-aggressive way: simply the means of telling someone you’re coming.

The woman in charge of co-ordinating our being hosted by the University is named Zheng Han, and she is a delight. She also almost ran into an old woman riding a bike this morning when she was talking to us and pulled out without slowing into an intersection. Neither her nor the woman seemed phased by the event that made all of us short of breath from the back seat.

After many afternoons of searching and trying out instruments and negotiating prices in cramped music stores, we are happy to report that we are now in possession of (renting or bought) all the instruments we’ll be using to write and record this e.p. We were quite the sight: four obviously non-asians  with case fulls of traditional chinese instruments banging along as we walked the busy streets pushing a baby stroller.

notebook we found yesterday

Friday, May 18, 2012

First message from inside.

We're in Chengdu, at the moment, trying desperately to teach Jasmine, the girl who runs our hostel, how to say "Canadian Lawyer." She says "Cladian Noyer" every time. It's very endearing (another word we taught her).

Zheng Han is not, in fact, our contact at Sichuan University. She's some kind of intermediary between Lei Li and the actual people we're supposed to be connecting with. She is, however, a really nice person who speaks English beautifully, and who walked with us for probably 30 minutes.

There are a bunch of people at the Music Conservatory putting on graduation concerts at the moment - Jordan and I have tickets to a solo Guzheng concert tomorrow night. The posters for these concerts are fantastic.

Visited about ten music shops today. Some better than others. Tried to play a Sheng - we both failed. Played a giant Erhu, can't remember what he called it. Bass Erhu of some sort. Giant and funny looking. It was hard.

What else. Oh, the music classes are taught across town from the University, so we'll have to take buses if we want to audit classes. The campus is incredibly beautiful.

Okay, hooray! China! It's crazy. I learned how to count to 100 today. 


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

it begins



I know well that my thatched hut is very low and small,
Because of that, the swallows on the river often come.
The bits of mud they bring in their mouths get into my zither and books,
And trying to catch the flying insects, they drive them into me.

--Tu Fu, almost unanimously agreed upon to be China's best ancient poet.

Happened to have lived for a while in Chengdu, where we will now take a turn living for the next few weeks.

As we make lists, fill bags, and contemplate what we are about to do, we feel both a shortness of breath and an unstoppable smile. It's really happening.

And though we have plans for and a general idea of what "it" is, we all know we're really getting on that plane and that's about all we know for sure. The rest is still something yet undone and unknown. Music unwritten, friends unmade, spicy noodles uneaten. 

All of it's out there. Over there. And we are coming.