I’m in Beijing because of music. I pretty much live for music. And in my two days in Beijing, I’ve had some surreal musical experiences.
1. Yesterday I took the time to go for a long walk and do some sightseeing. While I wandered around the Confucius Temple, I heard the sound of a traditional Chinese flute – and then realized it was playing a curious variation on the Ode to Joy theme from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
2. At lunch, I stumbled into a hot pot restaurant, where the other patrons (all Chinese) stared at me. After I’d been sitting there for a while, I realized that the music was an epic 70s and 80s mix. My meal was pretty mediocre, but how bad can it be with “I Will Survive” playing?
3. In a taxi on the way back to my hotel that afternoon, the radio played a station that was mostly talk (in Chinese). I caught one phrase: “John Williams.” A minute later, they played the theme music to “Schindler’s List.” Commercials, then more talk, and then I could’ve sworn I heard them say “Hava Nagila.” Sure enough, they played an old recording (clarinetist Naftule Brandwein, maybe?) of a klezmer medley, starting with and returning to Hava Nagila. Was it Jewish Hour on Beijing radio?
4. I had a Charles Ivesian moment at breakfast today. I was seated between the two parts of the dining room, and each had its own music playing. One was traditional Chinese zheng music; the other was a sort of Westernized Chinese-esque musical drivel of piano and synthesized strings. Each was in a different key and created a gentle but grating dissonance.
I’m sure there will be more.