If nothing else, Carnegie Hall’s Ancient Paths, Modern Voices festival at least gave some composers an excuse to root through their old photographs. Click on the slideshow on Chen Yi's page and see if you’ve ever seen anything cuter than this three-year-old in pigtails at the piano. Well, maybe a three-year old Bright Sheng already looking like he’s waiting for a conductor’s cue. Study the detail in these photos (the tiles on the Chen’s floor in Guangzhou, the doily atop the Sheng family piano in Shanghai), and their educated, middle-class background is immediately obvious. These are precisely the kinds of families that would later be targeted by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.
Contrast those images with early shots of Chen Qigang, whose family was no less educated (his father was the administrator of the Beijing Academy of Fine Arts), but whose home was much less cluttered by such bourgeois niceties. My own favorite, though, is a shot of the young Guo Wenjing practicing the violin at home in Chongqing. He’s not as young here as the other composers in their earliest photos, but his story is the most memorable: his parents bought him a violin so that he would stay in the house and not watch the Red Guards fighting in the streets.
Posted by Ken Smith