Corns

There is one thing I truly miss

from Shanghai

It’s the endless corns in summer

Every time my mother said

“I bought corns”

It means she bought

a lot of kilos

of that kind of

corns from Jiangnan area

which have a lighter color than those from north China or America

almost white

There were so many of it

in pot

I could poke them

to pick the tenderest one to eat

After some days

my mother would put the rest in freezer

and steam some of them time by time

Do you know what is “carefree”

It’s the endless corns in pot

There would never be too few

and I don’t need to worry

if there were too many

Gong Projekt Call for Score 2021

Update on 25th April 2021: Thank you very much again for your interest! We contacted all composers personally so we did not post the result immediately after we knew it. But we are happy to prepare the pieces by Christine K. Brückner and Eden Lonsdale. We were overwhelmed by the huge amount of highly interesting proposals, it was a hard decision to choose which piece to play. We will look for more chances to develop more of your ideas!

Update on 8th March 2021: “homage to classical composers with Asian philosophy” means that homage to a classical composer, preferably a female one (e.g. Clara Schumann) in a way showing your understanding of Asian philosophy. The classical composer does not have to do anything with Asian culture. Please specify the classical composer’s name when you send your proposal. Thank you and sorry for the confusion.

We are looking for pieces for our concert in summer 2021 in St. Jakobi church in Hamburg!

You can find information about us here (also concert recordings): https://dongzhou.live/2017/06/23/gong-project/

General

1. This call is open to all composers for a new piece to be performed in this summer.

2. No entrance fee.

3. The deadline is April 1st, 2021. We will inform the result latest on April 8th, 2021. If selected, the piece must be finished before April 30th, 2021.

4. The performance material should be a graphic notation, text notation, audio score or other kind of open notation.

5. If it has a fixed duration, it is preferred to be between 5-10 minutes.

6. Please send a simple proposal (max. 2 pages) with a brief biography of you to Dong Zhou (shimo.dong.zhou@gmail.com). Any other file (audio, video, picture…) which helps explaining your idea is welcomed.

7. 1 or 2 pieces will be performed.

8. We cannot provide any commission fee, but we will share the audio and video documentation.

9. The jury is the musicians. Besides the creativity of the composition, feasibility is also an important criterion.

10. Due to the current situation of Covid-19, we reserve the right to cancel the concert or change it to online form.

Theme

The theme of the pieces is “homage to classical composers with Asian philosophy”. We hope to see pieces explore the life and spirit of a composer, find something resonating with Asian philosophy and use it as an input to inspire the musicians to create new sound. When choosing the classical composer, women composers are preferred.

Update on 8th March 2021: “homage to classical composers with Asian philosophy” means that homage to a classical composer, preferably a female one (e.g. Clara Schumann) in a way showing your understanding of Asian philosophy. The classical composer does not have to do anything with Asian culture. Please specify the classical composer’s name when you send your proposal.

Instrumentation

Any combination of following from solo to quartet:

1. organ

2. alto saxophone

3. violin/ electronic (only one can be chosen in the same piece)

4. live painting/ performance/ female voice (only one can be chosen in the same piece)

Memo

1. The organ in St. Jakobi has a special historical temperament, all the sounding pitch is almost a whole tone higher than equal temperament. If you write exact notes for the organ, the organist must transcribe them. You may have to change some notes 1-2 weeks before the concert.

More information about the Arp Schnitger organ (please check the recordings too): https://jacobus.de/musik/orgeln

2. Electronic can be used up to 2 channels. Live electronic with Max or Ableton Live is possible. Only one contact microphone is available for live electronic.

3. No text can be used for performance or voice. The voice is a natural one without operatic training. Amplifying the voice is possible.

4. Audio score can be played from loudspeakers or headphones. In case of headphones, the organist cannot be synchronized with other musicians because the position for organist is far from the stage.

5. If you have further question, please feel free to ask Dong Zhou (shimo.dong.zhou@gmail.com).

Very much looking forward to hearing from you!

Gong Projekt

13.02.2021

Hebebrandstrasse

On the street Hebebrandstrasse
there is a building
I can only call it A Building
because it had too many functions
It is very fluid
so fluid that I can’t give it a name


It was the temporary campus
for many schools
including my university during 2015-2017
We were in this temporary campus
living an experimental life

Experimental
that means, it could fail
and nobody cares
We were in a temporary campus
after two years everything will go

On Hebebrandstrasse
everything
lasts only two years

We hung a large piece of paper on every door
to write this room’s current function
but we didn’t do anything
more than that

On one of the door
we wrote “Ligeti Saal” (Ligeti Hall)
But it was just an empty room
when we had concert there
we must move some lamps and chairs first

It sounds like
we were insulting Ligeti
comparing with other Ligeti Halls in anywhere else
But we were not
our insult was general
Brahms Building, Mahler Building, center of microtonal music…
all of them were just more or less
empty rooms

I was surprised
a piece of paper
changed so much
And after two years
so much can be removed
by just removing these pieces of paper

I had a lot of failures there
I was scolded, ignored, misunderstood
It should be temporary
because nothing stays in Hebebrandstrasse more than two years
But I didn’t have a piece of paper on me

On the day we packed our things
to move to a real campus
I found a cassette
it was written “Dream” on it

But I couldn’t find a cassette player anywhere

We were in a temporary campus
living an experimental life

At the Edge of the Pool

When I was in kindergarten
I was to be trained to do water ballet
We were too young and short
to either dive or use the ladder
So we sat at the edge of the pool first
then hit the wall to make ourselves into the water

It is a hard decision
to be into the water
Even we can swim very well
it is a hard decision
to make us wet
and cold
and start with 10*100 meter of breast stroke
then 10*100 meter of free style
then 10*100 meter of back stroke…

It could be warm
and fun later
But it could also be tiring
and boring
and frustrating
and even colder when back to the shore

It is a hard decision
to face so many challenges
and uncertainties
And the moment I sat at the edge of the pool
is the last break before I went through all of them

Now every morning
when I sit at the edge of the bed
I feel the same

The life after Corona?

When I am writing this article, we are currently in the post-pandemic time in Germany. Like post-modernist does not mean modernist is already over, post-digital aesthetics does not mean digital productions disappeared; post-pandemic life doesn’t mean “life after the pandemic”.

In the middle of March 2020, people were believing the pandemic would be an affair which would neither last long nor bring long-term change in our life. Matthias Horx has even predicted we will have football matches again in summer. And now we are in the summer. After a period of relaxing in restrictions, the “good old days” still did not come back, and we started to worry about another drastic increasing number of cases. No matter WHO refused to call the spike in infection number in Korea “a second wave”, the kind of “second wave” indeed arrived in countries like Israel and China. Not as we thought in winter 2020, but now. We will coexist with the virus, no one knows how long it will end. Even the “end” will come, more irreversible changes will still happen before it.

Rather than understanding the topic as “the life when Covid-19 is gone”, I would like to interpret it as “ the life after Covid-19 became part of it”. As an artist, I, as well as many of my fellow artists were influenced since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak. From March almost all our conversations are about our future. “Can artist exist as an occupation?” It was only a question we often heard from our families and acquaintances, but now we must think it over again. 

Is artist an occupation? Apparently it is not a working position. But when you tried to work at a position and do art in your spare time, you may find your time and energy are not enough to realise your artistic ideas. So you adjusted your strategy, let all other works you do support you doing art. At that moment you became an artist. If artist is an occupation, it takes 7/24 to work. Being an artist is a lifestyle.

But among our platforms to meet the audience there is now only the internet left. Without the physical presence, there is no real concert, theatre, or exhibition. Of course, no income for artists. When the crisis came, art became one of the most disposable parts. Not only the politicians but also many ordinary people are supporting this idea. A survey by The Sunday Times showed that their readers in Singapore regarded artists as the least essential occupation during the pandemic.

I do not want to defend artists by saying “without art people would be too boring to stay at home”. People can stay at home and cook, bake, do handcraft and gardening… Artists may also not be too happy to exist only for helping people to kill time. Besides, the dead artists already left numerous heritage, from a perspective of mass entertainment, contemporary artists are indeed not essential. So should we just stop creating art?

What I talk with people less is that as a Chinese I have already been hit by Covid-19 in January. My travel was canceled, many of my Chinese colleagues are either stuck in China or could not go there. Today my mother even realised that we may not see each other in at least two years.

And it is not just for Chinese but immigrants of all origins: international projects became almost impossible, local job chances are decreasing. Some couples are considering to get married sooner to solve the visa and financial problems. But these who are not in the same country for the moment, do not even know when they can meet again. As singles, we must be separated from family for unknown time period and solve all problems ourselves.

Being an artist is a lifestyle.

Being an immigrant is a lifestyle.

Being single is a lifestyle.

Not like the venerable groups like people of color, disables, people with mental illness, LGBTQ+…  This lifestyle other than the “mainstream” is my choice. 

But actually, everyone has a “non-mainstream” part in their life. Are you a freelancer? Are you in a long-distance relationship? Do you travel to another city to work? Are you unwilling to have a fixed partner? Do you spend old age alone or in a nursing home? If what is “alternative” should be abandoned, we will all be violated by the idea of sacrificing a little group to protect the whole community.

At any time, artists as a minority would find the problems of society and reveal them directly or indirectly through their creation. And in this crisis today, the existence of artists is reminding us, there are still other possibilities of life. These possibilities become the motivation that we do not die from a “mainstream” life. We are now having a castrated life where only “essential” things are allowed. But it is not because this lifestyle is reasonable. It is because we know after surviving this, the exciting life will be back. The “good old days” may not come again, but we must believe, the lifestyle we choose will be realised and maintained with other methods. 

We can rebuild the theatres and improve the ventilation; new technologies could enable open space to have high-quality sound and light system just like in closed space; in train and aircraft we could give passengers more personal space; the public toilets could be installed with automatic disinfection system…

Some politicians’ and folks’ arrogance and ignorance have led to the worldwide outbreak of Covid-19. But security does not mean giving up the individual will and freedom. To polarise things is always simpler, but actions should be taken to adjust the society to the pandemic without losing its value. As the slogan at the beginning of the pandemic said: leave no one behind. Let me add to it: leave no one unessential.

The End of the Quarantine Notes

There were some days I didn’t renew the blog, at first because of a deadline, then because I was tired, then I worked offline some days, now I’m again tired, but I will write this last note about my quarantine life. Actually the lockdown was loosen since May, it’s just I don’t have a reason neither motivation to go out. So probably from May this series of blogs should just be called “Hikkikomori Notes”.

Apparently, the Hikkikomori life will keep going. But there will be less things could related to the society or related to other people. And I may not have much time to update my life since more works are back.

So first I will show the only food I made carefully with heart: Shanghai style cold noodles.

Then some foods I cooked in 15 minutes. A new skill I leaned during lockdown is, to cook three meals at once and within 25 minutes.

Pasta and soup made with the same instant-pasta package:

put cheese drips in oven while cooking tortellini soup:

“Complete tomato rice”, a kind of fast risotto cooked with rice cooker:

Then I will write about some experience of going out of home.

On 25.05 I had my first take-out from a local restaurant.

On 26.05 I went to a friend’s place to take an old electronic device for my installation. On the way I was in a milktea shop first time since lockdown. You can see the lines on ground, we must stand in the queue with 1.5m distance.

On 29.05 I had a rehearsal with two musicians in a room and went to restaurant afterwards. There are many restaurants closed earlier than usual or can’t let people eat in because they don’t have enough space, so we just had something random.

Then I took a train to go back. It’s still quite empty. By the way at least on this train the toilet can’t be used. I wonder how would people travel longer.

On 31.05 and 01.06, I was working with the musicians in a studio. This is the very fusion Ramen we had for lunch on the second day. The soup is even red curry soup…

Some other foods bought on the same day (kit-kat ice-cream, oolong bubble tea, and vegetarian curry):

I didn’t earn any money from the work but working did let me feel like I can have more enjoyment without guilty.

A notice I found in station, not the only one telling about the shop is shut down:

A friend in China said after the lockdown, ALL shops around the university she works are shut down forever. The economics is damaged so much everywhere. In China the government is even encouraging street market for the first time. They were regarded as a shame of the city and the ugliness in city landscape for decades. But now there is really no reason to suppress people from surviving.

More things happened these days, except the SpaceX, most of them are just very bad news. For immigrant students and researches who have a Chinese root, this year could be the hardest year since 1990. I don’t understand why there are still people trying to find some “good points” of the pandemic. For example the so-called improvement in pollution during lockdown, I think it’s just the same like loosing weight by not eating, either you die or your weight will be back.

If the lockdown helped my anyhow, the first thing is it let me recognise what I’m really NOT interested in. I was always using “no time” as an excuse to not practice classical pieces (especially on violin), now I know I really don’t like it. And there are something else like a full-time job which my family putting stress on me to find, because of the pandemic their expectation became lower, so I had the chance to think whether I really want them. The second thing is I can take it granted to socialise online only, which made my bad offline socialising skill less awkward.

In a word, the pandemic gave people a reason and a chance to not be excellent. But I guess those “positive” people won’t think that’s a good thing.

Quarantine Notes 11-13.05

Online meeting at 12, 14 o’clock. Missed the time to cook something better.

I was very frustrated because I couldn’t remember a German word. But after remembering it I feel like I can again do a lot of things.

So practiced instruments, did some organization stuff for #pajamaopera. I should also do some reading and writing and probably learn some program. I always wished I have time for all of them, but now I found perhaps I just don’t have enough enthusiasm. People think I’m energetic because I did a lot of things, but they’re far fewer than what I wanted to do.

12.05.2020

My landlord told me his relatives would be here in afternoon, so I cooked two meal at noon. Simplified Bibimbap, simplified glass noodle bowl. Nothing creative. I don’t have many ingredients to choose and not so much time to think. The two dishes took no more than 30 minutes.

A lot of areas started relaxing the lockdown, probably it’s also why people are reacting to #pajamaopera so actively these days. I will still try to demonstrate what did I mean with “remixing” in the coming live-stream. I hope people will at least get an idea about this project before it ends.

I should also prepare more for the life after quarantine. Rejecting letters, friends with no job and facing expired visa, raising insurance… During lockdown these problems are less important. Without thinking them I could feel like I have the same situation as a 23-year old white boy. Lockdown made most people’s lives worse, so mind didn’t seem so terrible. But it still make sense to let most people’s lives better.

13.05.2020

I think I’ve eaten something bad last night, or it’s just I can’t digest whole wheat toast. It’s so uncomfortable in stomach and I couldn’t sleep well. I watched an online lecture broadcasted from Shanghai around 6:30 and tried to sleep again.

Then the cleaner came, I felt awkward to enter toilet when she’s cleaning so I waited until she left. It’s already 13:00. After that I had some food and tea but still feel not so well in stomach. It’s so depressing to wait more than one hours to go out, mentally and physically it’s just hard. I can’t do almost anything. And I’m worried if I want to eat something except bread after 20:00. I did cooked some noodles for evening but it’s still awkward to take and reheat them after 20:00 when my landlord watching TV. In my life there’s already like 20 years no TV sound, the TV sound, especially a German one, reminding me clearly that I’m in an alien place.

It’s two months now since quarantine. Someone wrote online that in future when she looks for an apartment, she won’t just think “I need a cheap place” but “how would it be to stay in this place for two months”. Clearly I have a different lifestyle from my apartment, it’s still ok if I stay here 8-10 hours a day, but two months is almost on my limit.

If there are reasons that I wish the quarantine stop, that would be the main one.

I planned to go to supermarket again on Monday. But if I can’t eat the whole wheat toast maybe I should go to buy something else tomorrow or Saturday. I regret everyday after last shopping that I didn’t buy oatmeal.

Quarantine Notes 08-10.05

I’m trying to eat better now because before I went to supermarket last time I almost felt sick because of the monotonous/bad-cooked food.

And having this is the highlight of my everyday since I bought it.

But today I had another highlight: watching “The Vaccum Cleaner”. As a theater I think it’s good but not my favorite. But it’s very inspiring because it’s written and directed by a Japanese and there is an Australian performer (he even studied music!). I recognized it because of his accent, and there is another performer from Switzerland, I think both of the accent added something to their character.

As I was small I wanted to be a voice performer (声優) for Japanese animation. But my father said, there are so many Japanese, why would people give you job when your first language is not Japanese? So my parents didn’t support me in this direction at all. Even today a lot of Chinese people think that foreigners will always be inferior and can’t input any culture to the society. This thought also make them think, having accent is shameful, people must imitate either US standard pronunciation or UK standard one. If someone has some words pronounced in US standard and other words in UK standard, they may still be shamed.

“The Vacuum Cleaner” let me confirmed all of these ideas are wrong. Being a foreigner has a lot of restrictions and obstacles. But language is not a main one. And it’s possible to convince the audience with something they’re not familiar with. The story, stage and characters especially the vacuum clear is very Japanese, the director/ theater writer didn’t even change the Japanese names of the roles. That’s something very inspiring. I don’t have a clear idea, how people could learn from it. But at least I see a reason to not let your origin and language stop you or your children’s dream.

09.05.2020

Tried some Sichuan style potato. I have no Sichuan pepper or coriander, so it’s just some fusion style dish.

And I went out again to send a post. It’s so hard to going out (as always, even before the pandemic), people have to change cloth and bring everything they need. Thinking of that much work I procrastinated again. The plan was to send the mail before 12:00 so it will be on the way today, but I went out around 15:00 so it will be collected perhaps on Monday.

It’s already very warm outside. I can remember some summer days in elementary schools, the PE lesson was the last one and there was no extra lesson after it, I wanted a popsicle on the way home.

Again, glutious rice is the cult of south of Yang-tze River. Perhaps my landlord is going to his relavants’ place again on Saturday, I have a lot of time in kitchen today.

I miss bubble tea actually, but as a friend of mine said, the best of the bubble tea is not the bubble, not the milk, nor the tea, it’s the straw. If I can’t suck it while walking, half of the enjoyment lost.

10.05.2020

More potato dishes before my potatoes go bad.

Sour-spicy sliced potato. I can’t really cut slices and I think shredder is lame, so that’s what I can do best.

And potato pancakes. It tastes better than it looks.

I communicated still very little with people these days. I always feel I should finish some work first, but it’s hard to start working. Shortly before 13.03 I wrote my very belated new year’s resolutions, and when the staying home time started I thought I’d have time for them, but I’m still far from finishing them. And perhaps after the staying home time I won’t have time anymore.

Officially the restrictions are loosen now. But I may start going out again from next month. I stopped paying my traffic tickets until July, so perhaps even next month I won’t go out much. Actually people spend more money when they earn more, only if they earn much more than they used to, it’s possible to change life with money. For the moment I’m not even thinking about this possibility, I’m a bit looking forward to the “normal” life just because I’m tired of eating what I cooked myself, and being heard by my landlord what I’m practicing.

Quarantine Notes 06-07.05

Today is the day of presentation. I was kind of nervous so I didn’t do much before the presentation, only cooked something better than days before because now I have much ingredients again. So vegetarian Cordon Bleu, dried instant noodle and German cabbage (Weißkohl). The cabbage is really hard to fully cooked and it has very spicy taste when it’s raw or partly raw. I was almost throwing away the half cooked cabbage but I just saw a recipe in social media by my kindergarten friend about how to cook cabbage. Luckily the recipe was efficient to my half cooked cabbage.

This friend was graduated with master of food science, an interdisciplinary subject mainly about chemistry and biology, but after going back to China she’s working as a food writer. Sometimes I feel a bit pity for her, but it’s still a very smart choice. Now food is almost the only subject people can write without thinking about the censorship, and even the restaurants were closed during corona lockdown, food writers can still write about self-made food, delivery and canned food.

When I was in university to have the “carrier plan” seminar, the teacher let us first think about the city we want to live in future, then the occupation. That time I didn’t understand the order because I think if you’re passionate to an occupation you’d be able to do it anywhere. But from my friend’s experience, it’s clear that the teacher was right.

Presentation was fine. I still have a lot work to do until a bigger presentation next month, but I can have short time off now. I tried the Turkish dish Shakura, but my landlord came after I began. With the TV as background sound, I felt I must hurry up, so the vegetables were not enough cooked.

After missing my most expected theater of Berlin Theatertreffen, I’m very alert to time now. But I don’t like today’s theater very much so I just watched half of it.

07.05.2020

I fixed the date with my student to have first private lesson from end of the month. And I got informed that I may start another teaching job next month too. Mentally I’m slowly preparing for going back to works with people and need to go out. Practically I started practicing classical pieces on instruments again.

And a simplified Bibimbap. With a rice cooker it doesn’t need to open the cooker, and can be finished in 5 minutes.

I’ve heard that some of my friends like to cook while watching TV series. I was surprised at first, because it’s not even an idea for me. I started really cooking from I’m in Germany, and since then I always share kitchen with some other people. I hope someday I will be able to have this kind of enjoyment too. Although I didn’t watch TV series for very long time, maybe I won’t watch any in future either, but I still want this possibility.