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Gao Ping: Bitter Cold Night...Embedded video
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Facing the current epidemic, the suffering and deaths of each day, no matter how roused and heroic the slogans are, they appear to be pale and powerless. The reality is: a thousand slogans have not the worth of one single piece of mask.
On the 6th of Feb., my pianist friend Sheng Yuan passed to me a message of suggestion from our common friend Feng Hanying, a well-known recording engineer: I make a musical response to the recent situation. Like many others that night, I was glued to my phone following the story of Dr. Li Wenliang who was struggling for life. He passed away later that night. I went to bed very late and had a bad night sleep. The next morning, I sat at the piano and wrote the first notes of Bitter Cold Night. Five days later, I drew the double lines on the score and sent the score and part via wechat to the pianist and violinist. After they recorded the parts separately at home using their phone, the recordings were mixed by the recording engineer. Smart phone, a thing that often gives us so much distractions and headaches in life, became the brilliant mediator that carried out the production of music and the communication of emotions. (Unfortunately, due to various reasons, we were not able to publish the recording on social media as we planned.)
What is the piece saying? On Feb. 7th, I wrote in my diary book : “…moving but with pauses and hesitation, like searching for an answer, the music travels with difficulty…long melody…restraint, solitary, chilly, and calm.” In the area of narrating and reasoning, music is never at its best. Once a musical note sounds, it immediately frees itself from the shackles of realism. Though the physical form of Bitter Cold Night was nothing but a combination of tones and rhythms, there could be no denial that its content and spirit were born out of that particular cold night, a night with such unsettling and complex emotions. Musical ideas can originate from real life, but with no exception, it is the “fictional” which makes its inevitable destination, creating a kind of “narration without narratives…” (Adorno?). The ‘narratives” of Bitter Cold Night will still rely on the listening, and each listener will bring out a unique “story” of their own.
I am completely aware that, during this difficult period of time, a thousand pieces of music may not have the worth of one single piece of mask. Inside of me, I only wish this piece of music will be of enough quality not to make me ashamed in the future. And I have another more discreet desire: perhaps, perhaps, after a long time, some of us will remember that extraordinary night of Feb. 6th of 2020, when the music starts to play.
-- Gao Ping, during the COVID-19 Pandemic --
in memory of Dr. Li Wenliang and dedicated to the 'whistleblowers'
26 Nov 2020: China Crossing IV