In the US, joy and inspiration has been taken away from us all

In the US, joy and inspiration has been taken away from us all


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2020

The pianist Wu Han has been playing this week to audiences of 1,500 in Taiwan. She writes:


Image for post

photo: Tay Tat Keng

In the U.S. right now, that joy and inspiration has been taken away from all of us. But I do know that when we are able to be back on stage to play for our beloved audiences, we will play our hearts out just like last night. That joy and appreciation of music will come back with an intensity that we never experienced before.

More here.


  • Greg Bottini says:

    Thanks, Trump. Thanks for the great response to COVID.

    • BruceB says:

      Copied from a Facebook meme, but it seems to sum things up pretty well as far as I can tell:

      “MAGA THOUGHT PROCESS: We must punish evil China for sending us this horrible virus which is just the common cold and we don’t need masks but Trump was a hero for wearing one that one time and God bless him for inventing that miraculous vaccine we’re not going to take.”

  • Robert Gilder says:

    This is so wonderful to read. Thanks to Wu Han for sharing with us.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    I am so happy to see you on the stage there, my dear friend. I remember when we met at the home of Anne Koscielny and Ray Hanson in the 1980s. Oh, those joyous days. They would have been terribly upset now. But, it will all come back, stronger than before and more appreciated. We all continue to deal with this here somehow. Some have dealt with this in different ways. For me, playing online many times, composing several pieces for piano, and raising a good deal of funds for two new projects which will be for post-pandemic, has been the only way I could get through this. But playing so much solo music which was overshadowed for many years by continuous concerto engagements has created a new world of music for many of us, taking the time in reflection and hope. Soon, you will join all of us and rejoice in the rebirth, the Neo-Renaissance. Until then, music will always be here for us, at home, in teaching and in our hearts before the stage lights return.

    • Vaquero357 says:

      Similar on the “audience” side of the streamed concerts: I’ve developed a new appreciation for solo piano and chamber music!

      Some years ago a read a review in the American Record Guide about a chamber orchestra arrangement of Mahler’s 4th Symphony. I thought, “What’s the point of that? Who wants to hear Mahler with a cut-down orchestra?”

      Last week I’m watching the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick thinking, “Wow, isn’t it great there’s this chamber orchestra version of Mahler 4 so they can perform the piece AND stay socially distanced!” {;-)

      The post-Covid music world will be permanently different.

      And if you come to Des Moines and do a solo recital – I’ll be there!

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        You bring out a very interesting point. Perhaps more people have tuned into the solo and chamber music repertoire as a result, providing a new awareness of this repertoire. I loved performing with the Des Moines Symphony several years ago, and would love to perform a solo recital when the smoke clears, hopefully. Stay safe, and thank you for your thoughtful comment!

      • William Safford says:

        The Albany (NY) Symphony also performed a chamber arrangement of Mahler 4 earlier this fall. Perhaps it was the same arrangement.

        I agree with your sentiment.

  • V. Lind says:

    If her bloody country had taken even a fraction of the precautions other places did, perhaps nearly 300.000 people would not be DEAD. There might have been even more joy and inspiration than there was in a happy concert experience.

    I wish she would publish her essay in a place with a wider reach than her blog or whatever it was, and, with respect, than here. Like the New York Times.

    The fightback against Trump’s soul-destroying, democracy-threatening, thought-resistant bleak vision of how to live begins with artists and thinkers and people of the left and the right who truly DO believe in free speech and the exchange of ideas and the possibility of joy and inspiration wherever you find it, be it in the concert hall or the baseball stadium.

    Alas, in Trump’s America, this woman’s name is a black mark against her. Those five letters have become a very bad word thanks to a racist and criminally foolish White House.

    • American says:

      I agree with you, V. Lind. Hopefully things are starting to shift, with the rejection of Trump by 81 million voters. (January 20, 2021 can’t come soon enough!) From the beginning of the pandemic, I wondered what would have happened if Trump and his sycophants had tried or cared even a tiny bit about other people,—the people they purport to represent and protect—not just their super rich families and friends.

      Trump’s murderous mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis plus the blaming, racist spin he tries to put on his failure have some calling it the Trump Virus. Those five letters have become a very bad word for a majority of Americans.

    • E Rand says:

      Value free speech? the Left? Ha! Surely you jest.

      • V. Lind says:

        I grew up more or less in what you would doubtless characterise as “the Left.” It was a world where free speech — including from those who disagreed with us, a concept with which you seem unfamiliar — was encouraged.

        I share the abhorrence of a kind of closing down of free speech, especially in universities, where such a thing should be an absolute given, through evils like no-platforming (our lot demonstrated if we disagreed, or just did not go, which led to cancellations due to lack of interest in some cases). We held debates. We had open discussion in classes, and there were no frigging trigger warnings over literature, or anything else. It was properly felt that if students were old enough to be in a university seminar room, they were old enough to read a book without crumbling into little heaps of self-pity (really self-aggrandisement) like the snowflakes they are. We were able to read Huckleberry Finn, the original published text, and nobody had issues unless they were of a literary variety.

        We did not use the “n” word, or any other terms of abuse. But that was a matter of taste and manners, not politics. We did not tend to find our lives oppressed, though as students we were much more respectful of professors than the students of today — we had to work for out grades, and a poor performance meant a poor even a failing grade. Two of my friends, who were party people, failed their first year so badly they were not permitted to return and take it over again.

        A female student could have a private meeting with a male professor to discuss work. His hand on your shoulder, seeing you out and telling you to keep up the good work, did not result in a harassment accusation.

        An activist Marxist taught my Greek Philosophy course. Some objected to his views to some extent, but he said we were not there to discuss his views but Aristotle’s, and they were welcome to complain if they felt he was not putting them across clearly and fairly. We had the same sort of scholarly disinterestedness from a privately very conservative professor of 18th century literature (not a field that in my experience has attracted a lot of lefties, but of course given the authors and thinkers contained in its scope, compulsory, and rightly so).

        You are falling into the very trap you appear to scorn: the absence of critical thinking. What I was saying, and most, I think, got it, was that there are lots of very good and decent people on both sides of the political spectrum and it is by their application of the decencies that America will begin to recover form The Age of Celebrated Ignorance. Your comment suggests that you are not one of them — that as you take one view, those who may not entirely share it are to be laughed off the lot. How is that, I ask you, indicative of a support for free speech from the Right? It is the very blight on America that has to be overcome.

    • E Rand says:

      Racist White House? Is that why Trump won a larger percentage of the minority vote (Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and even MUSLIMS too!) than any Republican president since 1960?

  • Steven says:

    “No COVID cases for more than 250 days now?”

  • E Rand says:

    It’s funny to read these hysterical comments that try to blame Trump for deaths from a virus and compare the United States to Taiwan; something akin to comparing apples to bowling balls.
    Presently, the United States has a per-capita death rate that isn’t even in the top ten countries world-wide. It has a diverse population, porous border (thanks again, Dems), and no real cultural practice of mask-wearing. What did Trump do? What he could – shut down the country (to catostrophic economic result), funded a fantastically quick vaccine program that has resulted in a vaccine in record time, and allowed states to handle the virus as they saw best. Tyrant!
    The Biden plan for beating Coronavirus?

    1. Trump’s plan for vaccinations
    2. Trump’s plan for reopening schools
    3. Non-binding yammering about masks

    Thank goodness we have serious leadership at last.

    You people are so blinded by TDS that it makes you stupid.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      U.S. deaths per 100,000: 87.49
      Taiwan deaths per 100,000: 0.03

      • E Rand says:

        Yes. Am aware. I think you missed my point about comparing apples and bowling balls. Not surprised you did. Please see my other point about the effects of TDS on intellect

        • True North says:

          Be silent. No amount of nonsense, distraction, or obfuscation can erase your idiot president’s criminally negligent dereliction of duty, nor can it mitigate the deadly legacy of unnecessarily lost lives he leaves behind him.

          • E Rand says:

            What did Trump not do that he should have? Didn’t Lord Fauci already say that Trump had implemented all of the expert recommendations? Doesn’t Trump have a duty to balance considerations that include economic destruction and the deaths that result from that? Finally- if Trump is criminal, is the leadership of the 11 countries with higher per capita death rates MORE criminal? Or are you just a partisan looking to vent your spleen of hatred?

            And no- I won’t be silent. Much as the left hates freedom of speech and all…

          • V. Lind says:

            There is no “culture of masks” in Canada or the UK or Europe or lots of other places. I occasionally saw masks when I lived in Japan years ago — my friends told me it was not to save themselves but to save others from any germ THEY might spread while they had a cold. (A kind of courtesy unknown in the west, like a lot of the courtesies of Japan).

            But Canadians and Brits and Europeans and others wore masks and their leaders appeared in masks, and their numbers are all better. Trump not only scoffed at them, and virtually never wore them — only briefly, when he was infected himself — but held huge rallies that observed neither masking nor social distancing, both of which have kept other countries’ number lower than the US.’ And the result was one outbreak after another. Have Americans lost the ability to follow the logic of these actions from point A to point B?

            And for all the vaccine talk: I have yet to hear about the rollout of vaccinations in the US. Is there a programme? A plan? A priority list (after the Trump family, or at least those among them who are not anti-vaccers)? The UK is into Day 3 of their vaccination programme. Stop acting as if the US was the only country on earth that knows how to live, or do things. Your ignorance of the rest of the world is colossal, and it begins because you do not seem to think it is worth knowing about. Memo to Americans: aside from the Indigenous, IT’S WHERE YOU ALL COME FROM.

          • E Rand says:

            Brit and European numbers are, per capita NOT better. Canada? sure. But you have to compare many, many factors. Not just “did they wear masks or not” like a drone.
            If you knew who I was, you’d have to walk back your assertion that I am ignorant of the rest of the world, and realllll fast. Sadly, if I used my full name here, the Left would have me out of my job and career for the crime of wrong think faster than one can say “Biden cheated”.

          • V. Lind says:

            How precisely did Biden cheat?

            Are you aware Trump cheats at golf, something that can be proven? I would bet he cheats on his taxes, tough so far that cannot. He cheated his “students” at “Trump University,” a real-estate scam that did NOT deliver what it promised and ended up in court. Anyone who is as aware of the world as you claim to be — and if you are, please begin to act as if you were — must have noticed the lies he told and the warped version of truth to which he adheres over the last four years.

            I doubt Biden would claim to have lived a blameless life, but he ran an open campaign and after that it was in the hands of voters and those who counted the votes. How was it HE cheated? He accepted a result that has been backed up by one election committee after another and court after court.

            Please save your alternate facts for the Trumptwats.

          • William Safford says:

            Translation: your words would get you fired for cause.

            Got it.

        • Peter San Diego says:

          Normalization to per capita goes some of the way to reduce the apple-bowling ball disparity of scale. True, Taiwan is an island — but more important is the amount of personal and contact tracing they allowed, right from the start. (They did not shut down air travel to the extent that the U.S. did, or claimed to do.) You can argue that Trump shut down travel from China, but we now know that the virus was already in Italy in November — and he didn’t immediately shut down travel from Europe, which proved to be the immediate source of the East Coast infection. (The southern border, meanwhile, proved nearly irrelevant to the spread of the virus.) Meanwhile, his closure to China still let tens of thousands arrive from there, without adequate testing or contact tracing. And his administration did not use the few weeks’ respite that border closure provided in order to set up testing, tracing, etc.

          The Taiwan-U.S. disparity has a lot more to do with disparity in effective public health policy than disparity in scale.

  • Rob Keeley says:

    Wu Han? An unfortunate name…

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I went to college with a trombone player who now teaches music in Taiwan. They are doing everything at this point: rehearsals and concerts. The students are dedicated, taking music as seriously as they do Covid protocols. It appears he made a fortuitous decision.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Well argued, V. Lind. You are a credit to your education.