Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

A Review of Together:
Chinese violin soloist Tang Yun with the Vietnamese National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Adrian Tan.

This is NOT a review. I have very little working knowledge of classical music and am in no position of authority or expertise to critique it. So, when I say “review” I mean “re-view” as in the viewing again of an experience, a rehashing– a revisting.

This is also not a review because it may not make sense. This is not pure non-fiction. This is sensual word-garbage, made possible only by the wet-dream of an evening I had last night– 63 hours without sleep, 2 bottles of sweet sweet Mountain Apple rice wine, fried catfish & dill rice-wrapped spring rolls followed by a disorienting taxi ride through the center of Hanoi, a visit to a street stand, beer served up in a plastic cup with fat ice cubes (“just accept the ice, Shannon: you’re going to get worms no matter what” assures my host), followed by a performance at the Hanoi Opera House.

So you see, this may make little sense at first, if you think about it. But consider this is not a thinking matter at all. Consider that this is like the guttural throat-calls of the woman selling bread right now outside the kitchen window at 5:30am– it makes little sense, but means plenty.

* * *

The trill of flutes like a Tchaikovsky-syrup and just like that I wanted to make love to the conductor: he couldn’t have been much more than 30, but his passion was centuries old. I loved to watch him and then not watch him. With the simple swoop of his hand, he showed me exactly what to feel, and sometimes I had to look away so I wouldn’t know what to feel.

There were those kinds of moments when my vision would become piercingly sharp and clear, even though I knew I had in my old prescription contacts. That’s good music.

His spine was what got me. It showed through just barely his soft silk suit. It and the ever-thickening music pulled and pulled so good and then when I wanted it to pull some more there was calm.

It was a pride.

Young, wide-eyed Vietnamese girls in the audience, the swell of the tempo, “a culture more romantic than the French,” my host had said.

Adrian Tan lifts his right palm upward, cups his finders, and releases, as if blowing a dandelion or coaxing a young child; but it’s the other hand I liked, the passive wrist gliding, leading, supportive and integrating all parts into one.

I could be submissive to that wrist, I thought, I could easily submit to a lament like that– and then the orchestra pauses, such that I’m not sure they’re really stopping, or, as if on a comma,

Back after intermission, fingers like the undulations of an inchworm, little string shivers, chatter, crooning, seductive mourning…

Tang Yun takes to the stage, and there is a new energy. He and Adrian Tan shake hands, almost a high five, a pat on the back, they are grooving now, this is better than any rock concert, the crowd stands, vibrating, and then sit, stand, sit, stand, encore 1, encore 2, encore 3– even the First Violin can’t hold back a smile.

I had wanted only to feel my heart ache but I think instead my chest climbed up a wall. In this moment, you know my thought? Thank God I don’t have a cell phone right now.

Tang Yun’s solo at the end was like an old man groaning, the kind of groaning earned only through years of life. There is an accomplishment to it, that groan, it says “yes, you too, child, someday, you too: us all, us all, us all, we die.” But Tan Yun is younger than I am.

Let me tell you: sleep deprivation, rice wine, plus a solo violin equals a symphony in and of itself. Tang Yun and I made a loopy reverie of sadness together that night.

And, oh!
That last note:
held longer than anything should ever be held, too good, painful-good, scary like love, but there it is, you’re drinking it in spite of your good judgment, not sure now if I want it to continue or stop, for fear I’ll never want it to stop, no one should be allowed to live in that sweet moment for too long, life doesn’t work that way, and in fact, if it did I think I would break,

and oh!
That last note:
like an orgasm that never came and you’re glad it never did.

§180 · April 18, 2006 · JetSet · · [Print]

2 Comments to “Dispatch II: Music (Hanoi, Vietnam)”

  1. Ian says:

    Of course I’m a classical musician too, you know. And…I…want to conduct. :X

  2. Adrian Tan says:

    Hi, this is Adrian Tan – I happened across your blog and the “review” you wrote for the concert in Hanoi. I must say that’s the most fascinating review I have ever received in my life. Thanks for being the one person in the world to write in the English language what you felt. Reading this entry in your blog has made this memory a little more special for me.

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