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Concerts and Events in the People's Republic of China ~ Journey to the East

In March 2008, I was invited to visit the Peoples Republic of China on the Island of Taiwan. I gave several concerts and participated in various events hosted by a major book publisher and by Yuan Ze University. This was to mark a week long celebration of Albert Einstein's birthday, which is on March 14. We had a demanding schedule and spent about two weeks in Taiwan, a large and beautiful island just off the coast of mainland China. The photo of the sculpture below, by Cassandra, shows how we felt about this adventure, taking us from our country town of 100 inhabitants in France to a bustling city of 2.6 million people in the heart of Asia. The scultpure is called "The Voyage Out." It is about immigrant peoples. You can see us on the deck of our spiritual ship:

Taiwan has been in the news quite a lot lately because of its historical relationship to mainland China, and the difficult questions surrounding political unification. It is an extremely prosperous, fully democratic nation. Here are three maps showing you its geographical location. Click on any one of these small squares to see it:
           

EVA Air, an award winning airline based in Taiwan provided our flight in business class and also hosted us at their flagship hotel, the Evergreen Laurel, in Taipei:

It was a long flight, but we enjoyed it. We had a choice of French or Chinese gourmet menus. The airline has a perfect safety record and the crew was superb. Oh look, there's Taiwan out the window! Click on it for a closer look:
  
Taipei is an exotic and beautiful city:
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Taipei is home to the 101 Building, the world's tallest for now. The city can be especially glamorous at night:
   


   

Well, in Taiwan people don't waste time, and neither did we. Our last minute schedule included several 10+ hour days of activities. Just a couple of days after touching down we visited Yuan Ze University to attend a celebration in honor of the University's 19th anniversary, for which I was to perform. I played Albert Einstein's favorite Mozart sonatas for violin and piano with the gifted local pianist, Fraulein Xie, who had studied in Vienna. Cassandra and I were invited to tour the campus. We had lunch at the new technology and telecommunications building. Science and engineering students displayed inventions and I met the physics and engineering professors, as well as most of the leading University donors. The University is chaired by one of Taiwan's and the Far East's foremost industrialists, who attended and spoke at the event. On a later occasion we toured the art department. Cassandra was asked to interact with art students, and I was invited to meet students in the music and arts departments. This was very enjoyable as the campus is very attractive and the students are bright, beautiful and ebullient, to say the least. Here is a photo that was in the newspapers showing me playing at a second event. The painting is by Cassandra. Her work was presented during a speech at this press event. You can click on the photo to see a better photo of the art:
Here are some photos from the campus tour. I am at the art department, where there is an exhibition of color photography highlighting the natural beauty of the island, Taiwan. The students and professors were interested in questions of aesthetics as well as ecology and preservation of natural resources. We had animated discussions:

In The News: Articles and Photos Related to Our Visit To Taiwan:
Rene Descartes may have said "I think therefore, I am." But, today, those thoughts would need to get reported in major media outlets in order for them to be true. Imagine the headlines: "Descartes Thinks... Is!" Or the tragic finish: "Famous Philosopher Not Thinking, On Life Support!" And so, without further ado, here are some of the news articles about my visit, featured in Taiwan's leading papers. There was also a two minute or four minute video segment on the evening news the night of the publishing event at which I performed. On the morning of the event, I was interviewed and photographed for about 3 hours in the hotel lobby, for a magazine feature. I was told by my Taiwanese friends that there were articles in 17 newspapers. Below, I've included a few that were brought to me. If you wish to see a larger photo, just click on any image:
In this close-up you can see the organizers of the event, who were also featured in a roundtable discussion, and on television:
Here is an article, clearly in the cultural section. Of course, we played Beethoven's Spring Sonata, not Stravinsky's Rite of Spring as the dancer to the left suggests. Albert seems to be looking on with keen interest. It's just that you can't tell from the news photo which way he's looking. That's the trouble with the news...Things get out of context. Once again, here it looks as though Albert has found himself in a compromising situation. Click on the photo for a larger view:
The headlines explain: "Albert Einstein Eclipses Great Grand Sun...Starlight Deflected, Relative Reality Shown!...Pandemonium Breaks Out!" Well, this is hardly news, but it took a long time for it to reach China. On a more serious note, news reporters there trapped me in a lobby, shoved microphones under my chin and asked me: "Do you look like Albert Einstein?" Flabbergasted, I thought about it and answered them: "Well, really, Albert Einstein was a very handsome man!" And so, if you have trouble telling us apart below, here's a hint: Albert is the handsome one. Here's the news page:
Another article...The paperweight you see at the top is a beautiful present I received. It is a translucent crystal in the shape of the island of Taiwan. If you wish to view a larger photo, just click on the image:
Here is an interesting juxtaposition. I couldn't help noticing that the pretty boxer has her hands in the same position as I do. Probably just a coincidence....Albert looks amused..."Make music not war?"...If you wish to view a larger photo, just click on the image:
Posters for the book signing events:
There were several posters made to advertise the media event and book signing at Book Zone, which occupies several floors and an office complex in the very heart of Taipei, adjacent to the 101 Tower. I've never seen anything quite like it in the West. The children's book section is state-of-the-art, occupying an entire floor, featuring books and an international assortment of creative toys and learning aids. The subjects were separated by floor. This is great if you don't mind walking the distance to browse and cross reference topics. I was given a tour of the store, interviewed by the press, and played a Beethoven Sonata at the book signing in a special presentation auditorium. The first advertisement looks like a movie poster for a whodunit shot in Hong Kong. I imagined the title as being something like "The Mystery of Paul Einstein," or "Play It Again Paul," "Agatha Christie's Murder 101," or simply, "TAIPEI." Actually, it was to advertise the release of a best selling title inspired by reflections on Einstein's Relativity, not his relative Paul, the violinist:
This one features an earlier photo from the concert in Ulm. Since then, I've acquired a pair of glasses by Kia Yamato. To tell you the truth, I got them at an attractive discount because French men didn't seem to like the 19th century intellectual look. The large letters on the poster refer specifically to the date 3/9, March 9th, though they do have a secret significance, which I shall never divulge. And, if you'd like to get a signed copy of any of these posters...you can forget it. I had enough trouble getting my hands on these two myself!:)
Publicly Speaking:)
Of course, I don't claim to be a comedian. I have great respect for that profession. Being a good comedian is hard work, something which is completely foreign to me. But there are times in every person's life where a little humor comes in handy. In Taiwan, public speaking is practically a folk tradition. And, as they say, when in Peking... And so, at the publishing event, I was forced, against my will to give a speech. The deal there is that you must be spontaneous, extemporaneous, entertaining, insightful, witty, charming, and hopefully brilliant. And of course, you are not supposed to be BORING... Well, filled to the brim with Taiwan's wonder drug, Oolong Tea, I gave a 7 minute extemporaneous speech in the form of a joke about my travels to Taipei. It ended with me having an existential talk with God Almighty, Himself! The story spoke of the complexities of modern travel, our dependency on complex modern technologies every step of the way...the endless security, regulations, and the amazing cooperation of untold millions of human beings behind the scenes to move us from place to place. The alienation, the fragmentation, the angst. Afraid that I wouldn't make it to the concert on time, travelling so far, I fall on my knees at the Amsterdam International Airport and implore God:

"God, what if I don't make it to the concert in Taipei? What if something goes wrong? What then?

And God answers unexpectedly in a low, solemn voice: "PAUL! Don't worry...You're dispensible." Actually, I used the word "replaceable," but that's another story. People laughed, since job security is a big issue - much more so than existentialism. And they were relieved to find out I wasn't another fundamentalist, there to teach them about religion. And they giggled and guffawed through much of the talk. For instance, my very gifted pianist Ms. Xie had worked as accompanist to the National Choir of Taipei. And in listing her credits, and thanking her in public I mentioned that she had worked for the National Choir...not the National Enquirer. This too seemed to greatly amuse the public. Here now are photos from the event:

This is our charming host the publisher introducing me and the books (by other authors) about Einstein:
And here I am in colloquy with the Almighty:
Next: Black Tie Event ~ Concert With String Orchestra

And now, please tap Herr Mozart on the shoulder, below. He will be your guide, as you are invited to a formal concert with orchestra in Taipei.
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