Monday, July 31, 2006

The Public Transport Diaries: Day 7

This is the last entry in ‘The Public Transport Diaries’. I’m not even sure if I can properly claim there was any public transport taken today. Does someone coming to pick you up so you can see a Chinese ‘Ritual Street Opera in Seven Parts’ together count as car-pooling? Does car-pooling count as public transport? It’s certainly a hassle-free way to travel, even amid the traffic congestion created by yet another football match at the Stadium—it was League this time. It’s a lot of fun to revel with someone else in your shared ignorance of contact sports and head off to see Moon Spirit Feasting or Yue Ling Jie.

Parking in the Valley on a Sunday was a snap, since the loading zone restrictions only apply Monday to Saturday. From the loading zone, it was only a matter of crossing the street and entering The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Past the foyer of the Centre, there was a shrine set up with various offerings to the Gods, while on a balcony, off the main room, massive sticks of incense were creating a storm of smoke outside the windows, its smell permeating the room. In the introduction to the performance we were told that the shrine was one of fertility and it had worked its effects very convincingly on the performers of Elision, who between them had borne 12 children in the past six years of performing the Opera.

I am no judge of opera, and especially Chinese opera. Was it in Raise the Red Lantern that one of the concubines was a former opera singer? She used to haunt the roof-top of her prison, singing haunted and tortured songs. When I used to work in a building off the China Town Mall, I used to hear Chinese opera while walking through it during my meal breaks. But these are my only brushes with the form. While I was watching this less than traditional Chinese opera, I wondered if I knew more about the traditional incarnation of the form, whether that would alter my experience of it. Undoubtedly.

Nevertheless, I liked it. It was challenging and mesmerising. I’m beginning to think I have a thing for experimental non-Western music. Between the music of Drawing Restraint 9 and now, the music of Elision, composed by Liza Lim, there’s something about the voices and breathing, as well as the sounds and instruments, of these pieces that commands my attention. I can listen to them again and again.

There’s also something fascinating about the demon women that inhabit so many Chinese myths. The moon-goddess was first a greedy woman who stole the Herb of Immortality from her husband. He pursued her to get it back and she fled to the moon, where, in fright, she coughed up the herb, at which point she was transformed into a rabbit. Later she gets turned into a toad by a demon goddess, the Queen Mother of the West. While the toad and rabbit are both symbols of female fertility, apparently the moon-goddess, Chang-O symbolises coldness, loneliness and beauty. She is a ‘figure of psychic nightmare’ and ‘a wish-granting heavenly creature (associated with fertility)’.

The journey home was decidedly hassle-free, for which I was thankful, after a week which seemed over-shadowed by petty irritations.

The tally of the various journeys is thus:
Bus: 9 Return: 7
Taxi: 1
Walk: 2 Return: 3
Car Pool: 2

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