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Posts Tagged ‘taiwan’

Photo: Wen-hao Tien.
Taiwan-born artist Wen-hao Tien (left) started inviting people from around the world to teach her songs from their homelands as part her exhibit on immigration experiences at the Pao Arts Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

Singing a new language can be a good way to learn that language, but even if you are not trying to learn it, you can experience the emotion in it. Consider all the choruses around the world learning the Ukrainian national anthem these days. Who is not moved by the feeling of solidarity, whether you are a Ukrainian, a singer, or a listener?

It may take an artist, perhaps an immigrant artist like the one in this story, to explore the mysterious, emotional side of the phenomenon.

As Patrick Cox reports at Public Radio International’s the World, “Opera divas sometimes have to sing in languages that aren’t their native tongue. So do popular singers. The Beatles sang in German in their early years. Today, BTS sings in Japanese as well as their native Korean.

“Is it easier to sing than speak in a foreign tongue? And what is the difference between singing and speaking?

“Taiwan-born artist Wen-hao has put that to the test as part of her exhibit ‘Home on Our Backs,’ about the immigrant experience, at Boston’s Pao Arts Center.

“Tien, who has lived in the US for 33 years — much of that time in Boston — wanted to explore the sound of homelands as part of the exhibit.

So, she started inviting people from around the world into the exhibition space to teach her songs from their places of origin.

“Among the musical numbers she learned: a Dutch Indonesian song, a Sanskrit chant, a Shaker hymn, a French song, and the ‘Happy Birthday’ song sung in Brazilian Portuguese (which Tien now considers far superior to any other version).

“For Tien, learning to sing these songs — even when she didn’t fully understand the lyrics or the cultural context — was a highly emotional experience.

“That didn’t surprise William Beeman, emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He said singing is ‘enhanced communication.’ …

“He knows this in a personal way [as] Beeman was an opera singer for a time. He said that learning to sing can be a bit like becoming a young child again — and it often sparks childhood memories. 

“ ‘The first thing that a teacher has to do in order to be able to get a person to sing is to kind of regress to the time when they were 4 or 5 years old,’ he said. That is usually a time when people can sing ‘freely and openly without any inhibition.’ 

“Which is also what Wen-hao Tien taps into with her ‘Teach Me a Song’ project. The songs tend be old ones — learned at a young age. …

“Tien’s exhibit also features her artwork, including an elaborate dress made of red plastic bags. The inspiration sprang from a family visit and a clutch of red plastic bags from a grocery store nearby to the exhibition space, where her parents always shopped. 

“ ‘My parents used to visit me from Taiwan,’ Tien said. ‘The first thing they would do when they arrived is to take the subway and go to Chinatown.’ They’d go to a grocery store in Boston’s Chinatown and buy a ton of food. Tien remembers the last time they did this was not long before her father died.

“ ‘I was in my apartment and it was getting dark,’ she recalled. ‘I looked out the window and saw two old people. Both were carrying as many bags as they could possibly hold.’  She knew it was her parents because of the bags. …

“ ‘That’s my last memory of my parents visiting me from far away,’ she said. ‘The image of them carrying many, many red plastic bags.’ … 

“Tien filed this in the back of her mind for years until these memories eventually resurfaced. She decided to make a dress out of about 35 of those bags, stitched and branded together in the style of a ball gown. …

“Tien has made a second dress out of red plastic bags. She hopes to give that one to Boston’s new mayor, Michelle Wu. Like Tien, Wu was born to Taiwanese parents.

“For more on Tien’s ‘Teach Me a Song’ project, check out ‘Subtitle,’ a podcast about languages and the people who speak them.” More at the World, here.

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Here’s an interesting start-up by a couple of entrepreneurs who love to eat. The two women decided to build a business around helping travelers find truly authentic cooking.

According to Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence’s website, “Traveling Spoon believes in creating meaningful travel. We are passionate about food, and believe that by connecting people with authentic food experiences in people’s homes around the world we can help facilitate meaningful travel experiences for travelers and hosts worldwide.

“To help you experience local cuisine while traveling, Traveling Spoon offers in-home meals with our hosts. In addition, we also offer in-home cooking classes as well as market tours as an extra add-on to many of the meal experiences. All of our hosts have been vetted to ensure a safe and delightful culinary experience.

“Traveling Spoon currently offers home dining experiences in over 35 cities throughout Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, and more countries are coming soon!” More here.

I have no doubt that Traveling Spoon is also boosting international understanding. What a good way to use an MBA! Business school is not all about becoming an investment banker, as Suzanne and Erik would tell you.

Photo: Traveling Spoon
Traveling Spoon founders Aashi Vel and Steph Lawrence met at the Haas School of Business.

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In case anyone thought that this blog wasn’t eclectic enough, I’m linking today to a story about garbage collection in Taiwan.

“For several years, Taiwan’s garbage trucks have played classical music as they travel through crowded residential areas, drawing forth residents with their garbage. Conceived by Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration as a way to decrease pests and odors in outdoor public trash disposal areas, the trucks musically notify residents that they are to bring their garbage directly to the trucks, ensuring that the garbage never sits on the curb attracting vermin and releasing odors.”

I wonder how two-career families who aren’t home to respond to the music deal with this. Read more on Taiwan’s approach at New York’s classical music station, WQXR.

Meanwhile, at Los Alamos, Americans show they can innovate in garbage collection, too. I think my grandson will like this truck.

 

 


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I went to school with the daughter of the consul general from Taiwan. One time she told me that the people of mainland China looked physically different because of communism.

I thought I already knew a bit about China. After all, my mother had traveled there in the 1930s as an assistant to Owen Lattimore (cowering later under the dark cloud manufactured by Joe McCarthy and his ilk, who saw Reds under every teacup). She was always talking about China. so although I realized my high school friend probably knew more about China than I did, I had doubts about her statement. How could living under communism make a Chinese person look different from family members on Taiwan?

Nowadays, a rapprochement between the two Chinas is in the air. At first I was surprised that so many people living in Taiwan — and accustomed to views like my friend’s — seemed to have no trouble talking about reunification with the mainland. But family does reach out to family.

Now I see that two sections of an ancient scroll are also being reunited. An article in the NY Times last week describes a new Taipei exhibit and the reunification of “Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.” Writes the Times:

“Wu Hongyu, a wealthy Ming Dynasty art collector, was evidently not fond of sharing, given his deathbed command to burn his most beloved painting, ‘Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.’ Fortunately, a nephew snatched the scroll from the funeral pyre that day in 1650, but not before flames split the work in two.

“During the three and a half centuries since then, the two sections were kept apart by greed, civil war and the vicissitudes of geopolitical gamesmanship. The smaller piece, just 20 inches across, found its way to a provincial museum in Communist-ruled China. The more imposing 21-foot-long section ended up on Taiwan, the island where the retreating Chinese Nationalists — and boatloads of treasures from Beijing’s imperial palace — ended up after they lost the civil war in 1949.

“If the story of ‘Fuchun Mountains’ is richly symbolic of China’s tumultuous history and its six-decade estrangement from Taiwan, then the painting’s reunification last month at the National Palace Museum here in the Taiwanese capital is a made-to-order metaphor for the reconciliation that Communist Party leaders have long imagined for what they deem a breakaway province.”

Who would have thought?

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