7 in 7 Day7: "How rare the moon, so round and clear!"

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

After making my last prototype and adding the music, I decided to start the exploration of adding music as part of the sensorial experience. This post is actually not a prototype but rather a collection of inspirations come from the most classic Chinese poem of the moon and a song for it.


The poem and translation are as follows:


水调歌头·明月几时有

苏轼


明月几时有? 把酒问青天。 不知天上宫阙, 今夕是何年?


我欲乘风归去, 又恐琼楼玉宇, 高处不胜寒。 起舞弄清影, 何似在人间。


转朱阁, 低绮户, 照无眠。 不应有恨, 何事长向别时圆?


人有悲欢离合, 月有阴晴圆缺, 此事古难全。 但愿人长久, 千里共婵娟。


How rare the moon, so round and clear! With cup in hand, I ask of the blue sky, "I do not know in the celestial sphere What name this festive night goes by?"


I want to fly home, riding the air, But fear the ethereal cold up there, The jade and crystal mansions are so high! Dancing to my shadow, I feel no longer the mortal tie.


She rounds the vermilion tower, Stoops to silk-pad doors, Shines on those who sleepless lie. Why does she, bearing us no grudge, Shine upon our parting, reunion deny?


But rare is perfect happiness The moon does wax, the moon does wane, And so men meet and say goodbye. I only pray our life be long, And our souls together heavenward fly!


(Written by Su Shi in 1076. Translated by Lin Yutang.)


The song was composed by Liang Hongzhi and it was first released in 1983 in Teresa Teng's(one of the greatest Asian singers of all time) album. The following is a video of Teresa Teng singing the song with the composer Liang Hongzhi himself playing the piano. Teng performed this song in such a sweet and tender voice which had made it a cultural icon for billions of Chinese people. Her sudden death at the age of 42 (of a severe asthma attack) had also added a color of sadness to the song. The tragedy echoed the poem of how "rare is perfect happiness" and "the moon does wax, the moon does wane, and so men meet and say goodbye".

The following video is a pure piano version of the song. I actually like the version even more than the version with lyrics. Even without words, the emotions are still there and has the power to make people cry. I'm very interested to see how people who don't know the poem would react to this melody.


The reason why I want to start the exploration from this song is that, it is so cultural specific and I have so many memories of it, and so do most of Chinese people. The song speaks for who I am and how I'm shaped culturally. Whatever the visual form would be, the music could always be there, as another "me" telling a story of myself. In Chinese culture, the moon usually represents melancholy, loneliness and the feeling of missing someone; but it's also love, tenderness and feminineness. Beauty and sadness, the two most important qualities I've always been looking for in my work and in life generally. I hope anyone who listens to this song to have the same emotional feelings as I do, and at the same time arouse their own memories of their homeland, family and anything that touches their soul gently.


This is me start learning to play the song on the piano (for 20 minutes):


I would like to keep learning to play the song and also gather some feedback for the song from non-Chinese listeners. Playing this song in 2020, New York would have more significance for me after experiencing cultural difference, misunderstanding and being socially isolated.


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