Can Asian Americans Save Classical Music?

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Can Asian Americans Save Classical Music?

Slate’s Michael Ahn Paarlberg asks Can Asians Save Classical Music?

But there is one group that still likes classical music and, what’s more, pays to hear it performed: Asians. Of Asian-Americans ages 18-24 responding to the same survey, 14 percent reported attending a classical concert in the past year, more than any other demographic in that age group. Despite classical’s deserved reputation as the whitest of genres, Asian attendance rates match or surpass the national average up through the 45- 54 age range. To put it one way, the younger the classical audience gets, the more Asian it becomes. To put it another, the only population that is disproportionately filling seats being vacated by old people dying off is Asians.

…I know because I was one of those kids. I’m a hapa (mixed-race) Korean-American, with an American father and Korean mother. At age 5, I was given a quarter-size violin. Private lessons followed, with regular trips to the Kennedy Center to see the National Symphony Orchestra. By 12, I was concertmaster of my school orchestra and performing solo recitals. For a time, it was fun. At no point did I feel I had much of a choice in the matter.

“Music is a huge part of life for most Asian families,” says violinist Sarah Chang. “Most Asian children I know start taking violin, piano, or cello lessons from an early age.” If this sets them apart socially from their non-Asian classmates, Asian parents largely do not care. Their determination to raise musical kids can be single-minded and severe. One memorable passage in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has Amy Chua threatening her daughter during piano practice: “If the next time’s not perfect, I’m going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them!” In Musicians From a Different Shore, University of Hawaii professor and pianist Mari Yoshihara describes her upbringing in postwar Japan. At the time, a confluence of mass production, rising incomes, and shrinking apartment sizes brought millions of upright pianos into urban households, where they became an emblem of middle-class status. Through her years of practice, she writes, “I never asked myself why I was learning music or whether I even liked playing the piano. Such questions never even occurred to me. Music was not something I had the option of liking or not liking; it was just there for me to do.

Noodles On A Train Causes Chinese National Incident

It’s not Snakes on a Plane but Noodles on a Train that has gone viral in China though it’s been mostly ignored in the US.


Round 1, Hong Kong subway riders are horrified when some hapless mainland China hillbillies have nerve to give their kids dry noodles to munch on the subway and SOME OF IT SPILLS ON THE FLOOR. Suddenly the terrified kids are surrounded by a trainful of scolding Hong Kong natives who they can barely understand as most of the speak the local dialect. One citizen dutifully hits the emergency button to call in the subway police, and shortly a man comes in with a radio to read the poor tourists the riot act and point out the sign to the mother and her kids, and demand that everybody get off the train and cool off. The newswoman is disgusted that the mainlanders did not even apologize for being such slobs.

Round 2, the mainland Chinese are outraged by how these spoiled colonial brats treated their fellow Chinese. In response, this mainland professor concludes that Hong Kong has gone to the dogs, the Hong Kong people were rude to the kid, they didn’t speak Mandarin like they were supposed to as proper Chinese citizens. Man how do people live crowded like rats in such conditions anyways. Sheesh, it gets nasty.


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Apple’s Good Earth for the 21st Century

In my high school in the 70s, Americans learned about what a bunch of wretched and miserable starving SOBs the Chinese were before the wonderful revolution of Mao in the film of Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth. Most Americans thought that at least with Mao’s revolution, nobody starved anymore even though the cultural revolution actually brought the greatest man-caused famine in human history.

You’d think that things are looking up since Taiwan’s Foxconn has brought China into the age of assemblers of the Iphones an Ipads and people line up by the thousands for new jobs in fancy factories with nice dorms.

But it seems be a case of American Imperialists causing harm to Chinese all over again. Like Pearl Buck who was horrified at the conditions of the Chinese she lived among, today it’s not Asians, but white guys at the New York Times who have come up with the definitive horror story of how a new generation of Chinese worker drones work in factories so dreary they have to install nets to keep people from jumping of the roof and have to get the Mayor to talk hundreds of workers out of jumping like lemmings for better promotions, or work in factories with aluminum power explosions even AFTER they supposedly fixed the problem after the first explosion. After this, instead of seeing “engineered in California” on the back of the devices, perhaps they should a sticker that says “No Chinese workers were harmed in the manufacture of this device”. Steve Jobs was absolutely ruthless with his suppliers to get out his IGadgets out at the lowest possible price with the coolest possible features, but guess who pays the price? The irony is that the dreary 1984 envisioned by the revolutionary commercial has come to life at the factories that build Apples products in China.

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About the Author

MIT electrical engineering computer science graduate has written conservative columns on politics, race / culture, science and education since the 70s in MIT The Tech and various publications in including New Republic and National Review.