Sunday, June 19, 2011

Shanghai, China March 1-June 19 Week 10

Almost to the day after returning back to Shanghai, I began to feel sick again. I shouldn’t blame it on the air quality in Shanghai so easily. In all likely hood, it was probably my body reacting in shock to the extreme difference in the temperature of the air. Taiwan was hot, steamy, and humid, and when I returned to Shanghai the temperature must have dropped 20-25 degrees. To tell you the truth, I welcomed this change. Taiwan was just too hot for me. I wasn’t expecting temperatures in the high 80s with such high humidity, and quickly ran out of short sleeve shirts during my stay. Mercifully I haven’t caught food poisoning since returning to Shanghai, but my nose has been stuffy and I’ve had a slight headache and cough. 
I’ve been working more seriously on my duet for Yoko and Hikaru for their upcoming summer concerts. In previous blog entries I entitled the piece “Birds Dancing.” However, Yoko recently informed me that she’d prefer another title. I have been working on this piece on and off since my arrival, and was not very satisfied with the material I developed in March-April, so I kind of started anew. I want to compose a koto part that is a bit more active and unpredictable, avoiding my tendency to rely on ostinati patterns, especially when it involves a pair like the violoncello and koto, where is it easy to rely on the violoncello to assume the melodic role while the koto provides a rhythmic and harmonic framework. Why should it be like this? Well, it doesn’t need to be, so perhaps it is taking a long time for this piece to come to fruition because I’m actively searching to do something novel–for me, that is–in my compositions.
This past weekend was really wonderful. On Friday, March 6th, I was invited to play the shakuhachi at the opening ceremony for Kazu Koikeda’s new yoga studio, Dashana, which is located just behind her restaurant, Anna Maya’s Vegetarian Cafe at No.3, Taojiang Rd. There were dozens of people in attendance and the energy was quite uplifting. I performed Honshirabe and Takeochi, and I was followed by a number of ritualistic prayers and an incredible ensemble of musicians from Italy, the USA, and Poland performing Middle Eastern music. Afterwards, there was a light reception and I met several very interesting expatriates. Despite the trouble that I’ve had adjusting to daily life here in Shanghai, for a fleeting moment I could envision how enjoyable Shanghai could be if I had a stable network of friends to spend time and share stories with. Kazu founded this yoga “space” inspired by the following concept:

Darshan(a): Vision, “viewpoint”, that is school of thought. In orthodox Hinduism, there are six darshanas, Nyâya, Vaisheshika, Sâmkhya, Yoga, Mîmânsâ and Vedânta. Darśana is a Sanskrit term meaning "sight" (in the sense of an instance of seeing or beholding; from a root dṛś "to see"), vision, apparition, or glimpse. It is most commonly used for "visions of the divine," e.g., of a god or a very holy person or artifact. One could "receive darshana" of the deity in the temple, or from a great saintly person, such as a great guru In the sense "to see with reverence and devotion," the term translates to hierophany and could refer either to a vision of the divine or to being in the presence of a highly revered person. In this sense it may assume a meaning closer to audience "By doing darshan properly a devotee develops affection for God, and God develops affection for that devotee." Darshan is ultimately difficult to define since it is an event in consciousness—an interaction in presence between devotee and guru; or between devotee and image or sculpture, which focuses and calls out the consciousness of the devotee. In either event, a heightening of consciousness or spirituality is the intended effect. It can also mean radiation or radiance, in the sense of a radio signal being radiated from the transmitter aerial.
I began my yoga studies anew that very afternoon with a wonderful teacher from France named Dominique. By the end of the class, she memorized my name because there were so many details she needed to advise me on! Kazu and I joked about this in the evening. Although I would hesitate to go to yoga every day instead of getting a cardiovascular workout at my gym, since it is so close I am going to try to go as often as possible–either a trip to the gym or a yoga class every day. It is amazing how much one sweats in a yoga class, although I doubt I am raising my heart rate enough to help with weight loss. Still, I am on my third day straight of yoga and I’m going to try to stick with it. David Sawyer has advised that it has brought “clarity and balance” to his life so I hope it will do the same for me. At the yoga class this morning I made friends with an American named Greg and we exchanged contact info in the hopes of hanging out in the future. 


Opening ceremony at Dharshana on May 6th, 2011
It’s probably just coincidence, but this weekend I finally started to make some progress on the violoncello and koto duet. I am hesitant to call it “Birds Dance” anymore! I sat down at the keyboard and said to myself, I’m going to compose one measure per minute for as long as I can while suppressing the critical voice in my head that give nothing but negative criticism. As my composition teacher Randolph Coleman used to say, “Make a mark.” Once I have some material down on paper, then I can filter what to built upon and develop and what to let go. If I can’t get to that stage at least than I’ll never finish the piece. I do think that the new environment I’ve placed myself into, with all of its challenges, has influenced my productivity, but there is no more time for excuses. I’ve been gifted with another month here in Shanghai so I really should work as hard as I can to make progress on a number of projects. In fact, if some of these projects don’t get finished by June 19th, I don’t foresee how they could possibly get done by the end of the summer.

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