Xiao Nengzhu

Today I had the most excellent time. Joanne from the British Council here in Chongqing had asked local residents to design a day out for me. The winner was Angelina who is sitting on the left in his picture. It was a packed day and we met with many interesting people from musicians and photographers to actors and the head of the University. I will make another post about this day later but for now I want to communicate a story I heard this evening that touched me deeply. Mr Xiao Nengzhu in the centre of this picture is a very wise and experienced scholar. He is a lover of music and traditional arts in particular. We experienced a qin (Chinese stringed instrument) performance today and I was shown scores for this ancient music. They consisted of stories that you were intended to relate to and then convey in the performance. Mr Xiao told me about a lesson he had had with a very old ¬†qin player, he died two years ago having lived to 93. The old masterr said to him “I don’t teach technique, I teach the stories. Once the student understands the stories then they will be able to play.” How far is that from our preoccupation with theory and technique? I feel incredibly blessed to have received that message via Mr Xiao. It’s something you sort of already know but to have it communicated to you across ages in a distant culture helps to confirm your thinking. If Steve Tromans reads this I know he will dig it.

4 thoughts on “Message from a master.

  1. Great tale, reminds me of a time on tour in the middle of nowhere in Poland, night falling around a campfire sharing stories and tunes and having a song sung back to me that was the song my father used to sing to me, hearing it again for the first time years later in a foreign land kind of told me I was on the right track….Glad you’re being well looked after – the food looks pretty good too!

  2. Thanks Max. There are cafes here that specialise in goat meat. Apparently in winter a Chongqing resident must eat goat at least once in the winter as it is believed it contains properties to warm the body. I told them about Wooda Farm and the Goat Hotel. If you’re eating your goat in winter let me know if it works.

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