In Madrid (and, to a lesser extent Rome) there was pretty constant music: buskers, groups of classical musicians playing various popular classical tunes, the occasional want-to-be opera singer belting out an aria. For a while I wondered why the Spanish loved Elvis so much, since I kept hearing “It’s Now or Never.” I then remembered that the Elvis hit—Elvis apparently heard the original while in the army in Europe—was a reworking of “O Sole Mio,” with Elvis-appropriate lyrics.
In Suzhou, it is a little different. Few, if any, buskers; I don’t think I have seen any street musicians. Some people I know do a bimonthly outdoor session as a charity benefit, but that’s about it. Of course, a lot of younger people walk around with earbuds of some type or another, so who knows what they are listening to. Probably “O Sole Mio.”
However, there is music when you listen for it. Or have it imposed upon you. [This entry, by the way, definitely requires a VPN if you’re reading this in the Middle Kingdom.]
The Suzhou bus I ride with some frequency (the #178 for those keeping score at home) plays a standard announcement: behave, give up your seat to those who need assistance, which stop the bus is arriving at next. But to my ears, at any rate, the announcement starts with precisely the same rhythm as Flatt and Scruggs’ “Flint Hill Special.” So after riding that bus, I have this song in my head (I have been told that “耳朵虫子” or “earworm” is not a thing in China.)
Then there is my university. The end of class is marked by a sweet little tune that sounds as if someone has just opened a music box. Often I note this phenomenon by twirling around like a ballerina. This may not make me look especially sophisticated. But the beginning of class also starts with music and the song chosen to do so at Suzhou University is “Home on the Range.” I laugh each time it is played; my students don’t understand why, nor do they understand why I so often begin class—ostensibly about Kant, or the American Constitution, or Marx, or the role of the Supreme Court—worried about where the deer and the antelope play.
Here, for no extra charge, is a fine version of that song from The Awful Truth, featuring Irene Dunne and Ralph Bellamy:
To continue our musical tour of Suzhou, I should mention that the announcement (every 10 minutes or so) at the train stations (at least, so far, in Suzhou, Beijing, and Huang Shan) is exactly the opening bar of Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke,” From Songs in the Key of Life. This is not a bad earworm, and four notes is sufficient:
Just as in America, teenagers here are pretty obsessed with acne. The ads about it here seem to be even more ubiquitous (if ubiquity has degrees). On the bus (again), there is a virtual certainty that one will see an ad for a doctor’s clinic that can cure what ails you in this area. Unfortunately, the song that plays over it is a Chinese version of “If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands.” This is not an earworm one desires, but it may well be unavoidable if you aren’t earbudded up and you ride the bus. I shall not provide a video of that one. You can thank me later.
Finally, every now and then I think about the following song and its meaning (hmmm). And after the horrors of “If You’re Happy, etc.,” this will provide a salutary aural cleansing.
“What?” you say. “No food pictures?” Just one. More Uighur food.