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About the Author
Ken Smith currently divides his time between New York (where he writes for Gramophone magazine) and Hong Kong (where he serves as the Asian–performing arts critic for the Financial Times). He is Co–Music Director of the recordings Dong Folk Songs and Miao Music for China's MediaFusion Group, and he won an ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award in 2008 for his liner notes to Gil Shaham's recording of The Butterfly Lovers Concerto for Violin. Ken is also the author of Fate! Luck! Chance!, published in 2008 by Chronicle Books.

Ancient Paths, Modern Voices Blog

Scarfing up Culture

I’m still in Hong Kong, but I can still feel Carnegie Hall in the air. That’s mostly because I passed by Shanghai Tang last night, where Lang Lang’s signature black-and-fuchsia piano-print scarf has been carrying word of Ancient Paths, Modern Voices back to Asia. (It retails here for HK$980, by the way—about US$125, compared to US$150 in New York. The Chinese love their bargains.)

The idea of a classical musician teaming up with an international fashion brand might still seem novel in the West, but it falls squarely within the modern Asian concept of holistic shopping. New York’s Time Warner Center—with its commercial offices, destination restaurants, high-end retail stores, a luxury hotel, and multiple performance spaces—is pretty much Hong Kong’s idea of perfection.

Even more prominent than Lang Lang’s scarf display in Shanghai Tang’s flagship store in Central is the exhibit at the company’s new boutique at 1881 Heritage, where the pianist’s famous scarf drapes over a copy of his autobiography and his new recording of Russian piano trios, resembling a miniature shrine including everything but the incense.

That location, a one-time Marine Police Quarters and now a hotel-restaurant-retail space, appropriately faces the harbor-front Hong Kong Cultural Centre, which is where Lang Lang is most likely to be found when he’s in town. Lately, he’s here more frequently: In November 2006, the pianist became a Hong Kong resident under the Immigration Department’s quality migrant admission program, which has allowed notably talented mainlanders (including fellow Chinese pianist Yundi Li and Olympic gold medalist Fu Mingxia) to settle in Hong Kong legally without first securing a job. A Hong Kong passport allows the pianist to keep his Chinese citizenship, while making international travel much easier.

Posted by Ken Smith

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