Demo Concert – 24/03/12

April 18th, 2012

This blog is really a photo album of the curiously-titled ‘demo concert’, held on Saturday 24th March in the beautiful XMNYT theatre, just across the road from my accommodation. Much of the day was spent figuring out aspects of staging, lighting and performance presentation – although there was still time for some fun. The pictures below are of The British Council’s Arts Manager of South China, Susan Liu trying her hand(s) at the technique used to create the scraping effects in Abrade from Montauk Variations (yep, just press down and pull your fingers towards you – it’s all to do with how rusty the strings are…).

This concert bought together all of the musicians and people that I had met so far on the residency. Part One of the concert featured the Xiamen Nanyin Troupe and, as mentioned in my earlier Nanyin blog post, the intention was NOT to try and create piano versions of this sublime music but rather to respond, contrast and complement. As I have spent a number of weeks attending XMNYT’s daily rehearsals, I relied more on my experience as a listener to intuitively guide my approach to the improvisations featured in the concert. Part One was structured as follows:

Nanyin I (qu)

Solo I

Nanyin II (qu)

Solo II

Nanyin III (pu)

Solo III


Presenting both approaches separately but contiguously in this way proved very simple and yet effective: by contrast, the Nanyin pieces seemed fresh, sharp and modern (Nanyin has a reputation for being a slow music – especially for “younger audiences with shorter attention spans”, as I was frequently told!). Part Two was structured in much the same way:

Bourne Solo I (long)

Hawai Guitar I

Hawai Guitar II

Hawai Guitar III (Wave of Gulangyu)

Bourne Solo II (Wave of Gulangyu)

Guquin I

Guqin & Bourne


This concert would have been incomplete without the sound of the Hawai guitar… I really wanted to feature Mr. Xie, a well-known exponent of this style here in Xiamen/Gulangyu and whom I’d also interviewed earlier on during the residency. He was joined by one of his HG colleagues and played a medley of three pieces, ending with the aforementioned Wave of Gulangyu.

this was echoed with an unashamedly George Crumb-influenced interpretation of Wave (a la Crumb’s Dream Images (Gemini) from Makrokosmos I, Part III). I had the circumstantial luxury of TWO pianos for this concert – one 7ft Yamaha:

and a much older, smaller instrument of Austrian provenance.

I’d fallen in love with this lovely instrument upon visiting piano maker, restorer and collector, Wong Sam-Un‘s premises weeks earlier. This piano was intended for use for the concert at Shapowei, but sadly, due to a myriad of bureaucratic guff it looks as though this event will now not take place…

It was a real honour to have been able to welcome recent acquaintance and Guqin teacher, Yong Lin. Lin played a beautiful, penultimate solo Qin piece and we then came together for a closing improvisation. The Quin is such a quiet instrument and I felt that the best way to engage with this was through creating a combination of the occasional ‘played’ note and a variety of harmonics and other sounds from within the piano’s interior.

Have a look at Beauty and impermanence: The Guqun… for details of my first encounter with the Quqin at Yong Lin’s home.

It was an incredible experience to have been able to absorb the different aspects of Xiamen’s rich musical culture and then to play alongside the people that had had such an impact on me and to give something back in return. The foyer and the concert hall itself had been bedecked with flowers, various banners and reproductions of photographs of my journey so far on high-quality polaroid-sized cards, pinned up either side of the hall.

I was not however prepared for what happened next. After the event I was presented with a stack of about sixty or so envelopes.


Each envelope was adorned with a “Post Amoy to Matthew” stamp over the seal. The insides were also beautifully detailed (coincidentally, this is a drawing of the Yundang Waihu, where I go to run most days):

and contained a blank card on which audience members could write their comments if they so wished. Here is a small selection of those comments:



I was touched by this lovely idea and even more so by those who had taken the time to write things to me. About half of them are in English so maybe I’ll sit down with Nico and look through the other half that aren’t. Or not. Thank you, people of Xiamen for making this event so overwhelmingly memorable – I won’t forget your kindness…