Thursday, June 28, 2012

Coming Home: Mountain Songs

As I ate outside on this cool, dry, smoky SLC morning -- home again, drinking orange juice, wildfires in the south -- I realized that for a trip in which our main focus was music, we certainly haven't posted much for you to listen to.

We're not quite done with all the recording of our new EP (recorded almost entirely in China is going to have to do, unfortunately, hope you don't want your money back), so we can't show you any of the new songs just yet. But, as a wanderer in a new place, my most invaluable piece of archival equipment (usually my sketchbook) turned out to be my little field recorder this time around. So I'm going to tell you about a town in Western Sichuan called Moxi, and I'm going to involve your ears a bit.

Field Recordings from China - Playground in Moxi by Matteomusic

Moxi sits at the base of Gongga, a huge, glacier-cut mountain with warm springs and sharp, snowy peaks. We never saw anything but its rolling foothills, due to the fog and the outrageous price of a gondola ticket, but we felt its presence -- coming up from the huge hydrological basin that Chengdu and its surrounding farmland sit in, Moxi's steeper hills and thinner air felt like home to us Rocky Mountain folk. 

We also felt Moxi's significance as a cultural gateway -- a town just inside the rich, fluid middle segment of the Venn Diagram that plots Sichuan with Tibet. As with most borderlands, the political, cultural, and ethnic boundaries are asynchronous and unreconcilable in Western Sichuan. Women wear dark robes, and have red lengths of cloth braided through their hair, which they wear in circles around their heads. Tibetan kids stare at us and push each other, and their screams and laughter sound identical to the afternoon noise of the playground we lived next to in Chengdu. 

But Moxi also has an old stone Catholic monastery, repurposed as a historical museum for relics and stories from the Long March. And the red-braid women and the push-scream kids are accompanied down cobblestone streets by old, weathered Han Chinese men in grey canvas wrappings or brown leather jackets (the differences between Han and Tibetan are already indistinct, made muddier in the spectrum of faces here). And it isn't until you've left Moxi that you start to see prayer flags whipping from roadside fences, though you can find here all the same pastel colors: around the windows, or lining wicker baskets full of nonsense, or on the pipes that the jacket men are smoking. Unlike the villages and towns we would see farther west, there are no great embossed gold rolling prayer drums on the streets of Moxi. But they sell small brass twirling ones in every trinket shop. 

And, on a cool, dry morning, eating fresh bread with yak butter, we hear mountain songs. A group of Tibetan teenagers and twenty-somethings, in sweatpants and camisoles. We find them scattered in a stone courtyard, and after some coaxing and nervous laughter, they sing for us. First a stoic girl who looked over her left shoulder at the last turn of each throat-catching (for her and us) melodic phrase.

Field Recordings from China - Tibetan Mountain Song (Coming Home) by Matteomusic

And then this smiling, reluctant, recently-woken kid in the yellow shirt, who clenched his fists and rocked back and forth and pointed his face into the sun, throat open, singing upward at GongGa.

Field Recordings from China - Tibetan Mountain Song (The Biggest Lama) by Matteomusic


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

this last week or so

a few from Brinn's camera. More soon from the others....
Morning market that appears every morning along this street then disappears as the sun gets hot.

China does not win the prize for cleanest country in the world. But even it’s dirty looks kinda cool.

the kindergarten on campus. Now those are some wiggly kids.

No need for gargoyles with this guy on your fence.

These little treats come with a plastic glove to eat them with. When we asked why, the shop owner looked at us with genuine confusion “Well your hand would get sticky!”. I'm not sure what jordan is thinking in this picture.

We love the fruit. we love the fruit. oh, how we love the fruit.
Anna Banana



138 postcards

Matt is not a tramp. But Julie sure is a lady.

The 14 passenger van that would take us to places and drive us along roads that made us literally gasp (for many reasons) and oooh around every turn. You simply cannot go to the places we were able to see by train or bus or tour. We loved making our own route and stopping whenever we pleased.

We ended up staying in this amazing little house in a village by a lake, where they made dinner for us completely from things grown in their own fields and garden. Eric and Jordan had a discussion late late into the night with this man about everything from communism under Mao to the use of chopsticks.

Luke and Jordan listening to field recordings. One more amazing thing about this trip is that with Luke’s field recorder, we’ve been able to capture some incredible sounds from out journey which will also be incorporated in to the music we’re making

Matt at work

When we woke in the morning, a small crowd was gathered at their usual spot on small benches on the side of the road. They offered us plastic stools to join them, so we did. Again, if you ever want to get invited to do things in China, bring along a baby.

babies. Anna's foot was fascinating.


Things grow here. Every inch is garden.

We were all in awe of the gorgeous river flowing far down below us. So we told Xiao Wang (driver) to pull on over and we jumped off the cliffs.

Cathedral in the mountain village where Mao stayed for a while during the long march.

portrait of the young mao

this is what stores look like

Tibetan restaurant/room we had a delicious lunch in in a mountain town called Moxi. Matt was pretty excited about filming this beautiful woman making incredible food in her corner kitchen by the window. She asked to see what he filmed. And seemed to approve

Anna's always loved foggy mountain passes

i'm the king of the world. or I'm about to sneeze

hostel  we stayed at in Kangding, western sichuan. Not a garage

Each mountain had these at the summit. We were literally in the clouds.

oh look! A yak!

A little pick up game of b ball with some Tibetan Lamas (monks in training) 

We loved the buildings-- thick stone walls and colorful windows. Wondering how one would look in SLC were Eric and I to build our own.

Tibetan store selling goblets. First thing I thought was Gringotts.

The men of MATTEO now all have matching tailored mandarin collared shirts. Bad pictures. But good news.