Poem Without a Title 7

Excerpts from an interview with Frederic Chopin, the noted musician and the Poet Li Shangyin (Around the Millennium):

Paris Match: Welcome Monsieur Chopin and Master Li.

Both: Thank you.

Paris Match: Monsieur Chopin, let me first start by asking you, how do you manage to keep your hair so well fashioned? As you know the Chopin style is the rage. Ever since Kurt Cobain 1 left us, teenagers and adults everywhere have aped your style in clothing and fashion.

Frederic Chopin: Well, actuellement, c’est tres facile…Excuse me, I tend to talk French too much. My hairstyle is absolutely normal. Frankly, although I think about combing it once a day, I don’t give it another thought.  As for my style, well, it was just the way I was brought up . I must say, however, that Kurt Cobain, with all my respect for his music, did not know how to dress.

PM: Master Li, you don’t mind if I call you that do you? (Li Shangyin nods his head slowly) Considering your native roots, what do you think of American music and society? Some people say we’re too preoccupied with violence and this contributes to the demonisation of art, poetry that broaches extremes.

LSY: Well, In the feudal dynasty where I come from, one does not state one’s opinion too strongly. American society scares me sometimes. The things people will do just to be outrageous. In  my poems I allude to many things, whether it is a corrupt emperor, or a licentious official, for example. Take jade for example…

PM: Yes?

LSY: Jade means many things, love, vaginal fluid, purity, lust, all erotic. The context makes all the difference, but one needs to understand the allusions to ancient stories, or imagine what the pictophonic sounds convey.

FC: Well, without really understanding what my dear friend said, for I am just a stupid musician, even then I really cannot speak for most American music. I have tried to find it, and, with the exception of Jazz, it does not exist. I walk into record stores in New York, and there are strange sounds coming from speakers. And I listen for music. And , believe me, I DO NOT HEAR ANYTHING. I try very hard, but there is nothing there. Believe me I am not being facetious, but there is nothing…absolutely nothing. Bach and Mozart…that’s it, that’s it, all I hear…oh of course, do not forget Bellini.

PM: What about the classical musicians today? What do you think of them?

FC: The musicians of today have lost their soul. Pollini, Michelangeli, even Gould and Richter 2, and all these so-called great pianists have honed technical perfection to a robotic level. They are like giant, perfect, egg shaped computers whose recordings are dazzling in their consistent marimba-like sound and virtuosity. But the soul is missing! What I would give for those pianists whose technique was in part defined by their technical slips and errors, because they took huge risks. When they were bad, they were very bad, but when they were good, they were gods. Now everyone is afraid of a wrong note, or a performance that strays from an imagined fidelity to the past. Cortot would be booed out of Carnegie Hall today. Anton Rubinstein and Schnabel would be carnival freaks at Long island séances. And even I, Chopin, would be castigated for a weak tone, and excessive rubato (assuming they did not know my name!). Merde!

PM: And where do you think the next great musical center will be, if not Paris?

FC: Well, that is obvious, it will be from China. Everyone, even the Chinese, say they have too many people. Well, it goes to reason that they also have more geniuses than anyone else! And of course, they love teaching their kids to play le pianoforte. Suffit!

LSY: I agree with the comment about too many people!

户外重阴暗不开,  hù wài zhòng yīn àn bù kāi
含羞迎夜复临台。  hán xiū yíng yè fù lín tái
潇湘浪上有烟簟,  xiāo xiāng làng shàng yǒu yān diàn
安得好风吹汝来。  ān dé háo fēng chuī rǔ lái

Outside, just ceaseless gloom,
Modestly, I welcome night onto my terrace.
Mottled Xiaoxiang bamboo 3 drifts over the waves like smoke
How peaceful is the wind that blows you to me.


1.  Kurt Cobain (1967-1994) 20th century musician, creator of ‘grunge’ music. Committed suicide in 1994.

2.  Maurizio Pollini, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Sviatoslav Richter, Alfred Cortot, Artur Schnabel, Anton Rubinstein were/are leading pianists in their time.

3.  Referring to a river where mythical maidens spotted the bamboo with their tears

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