Friday, June 8, 2012

Wooden Fish

Yesterday I got to set up the microphones in a big empty room (resulting in some very serendipitous reverb) and record this giant red drum for a couple of our new songs. In addition, we sampled a bunch of traditional Chinese percussion: brash gongs, little cymbals, paired bells. Yu Si, our resident traditional Chinese drummer and new friend, told me that one particular little red-painted clip-clop noise-maker was called "wooden fish," and I recognized the character for "wood." We had him record a beat we'd written for one song. It's a song that switches back and forth between 3-bar and 4-bar phrases, which is hard to communicate even without a language barrier. He did it wonderfully, in just a few takes.

Chinese music education (like most Western classical education) doesn't put much emphasis on improvisation, so when Chip asked Yu Si to "just listen to this next song and play around, see if you can come up with something," he responded skeptically, " around?" Being someone whose musical education has consisted largely of playing around, I ended up on the big drum for that song, which was a treat.

The real treat of this week, though, was getting to watch these college students perform traditional pieces at our "Chinese Folk Orchestra vs. American Indie Folk Band" concert (not our title -- that's what the University put on the posters). It was a really special night for us. They play these instruments so masterfully, and getting to share a stage with them was an experience we won't soon forget.


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