• 13 - 17 May 2024
  • Berlin, Germany
Handel, Greta and Buddha

The Great Buddha Meets Greta

Musings on Music, Truth and the End of the World: artistic director of the Beijing Music Festival, Shuang Zou, delivers her keynote speech from quarantine in Beijing.

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From her quarantine in Beijing, Shuang Zou offers her thoughts and heartfelt sentiments on the importance of dialogue and sends her well wishes to the citizens of the global village. Tying together Handel’s Songs of Nature with Greta Thunberg and teachings from Buddha, along with quotes from Japanese author Haruki Murakami, Shuang tells us to “let music be compassion, if compassion and love is the solution.”

Planned for the afternoon of 21 May 2020, in the floating pavilion in Rotterdam, Classical:NEXT was set to host its final networking farewell and pass the international art music baton to Operadagen. A central figure for this moment was Shuang Zou, artist director of the Beijing Music Festival and Longlist nominee for the 2020 Innovation Award. Little did we know in the planning stages that the topic of her keynote speech would be so apt, but in light of the on-going global pandemic, there is no better time to deliver her words to the community than at this very moment.



Let music be compassion, if compassion and love is the solution.

A message from Shuang Zou from her quarantine in Beijing

The following is the full speech in writing:

“Given what has happened around world in the last 12 months, one realizes, despite 24-hour news, somehow makes everything look like a piece of exciting entertainment which we, the citizens of the global village, could still share as topics at dinner, I believe we have also sub-consciously contemplated about the end of the world. It is now, isn’t it? We are in it already. What does it look like - the end? Are we going to end up in heaven, hell, or sent to the next round of reincarnation - a bird in the Amazon? A koala in the Australian bush? Or a finless shark in the Indian Ocean? Or as a poor little bat that carries apparently the most number of viruses but consumed by human beings as a sexual booster? If the world doesn’t exist anymore, what do we reincarnate to?

The great buddha emphasised the importance of our inner nature. Without understanding our nature, whatever we perceive, discuss or desperately try to save or protect are only going to be projected illusions of our own desire. We choose to see what we want to see, we choose to ignore what we want to ignore and we cannot get out of that ferocious cycle. Then we realise we are in a war in which everyone fights for their ideals, but no one understands each other. Then we think dialogue is not important anymore and then what? Dialogue is important to create a context where everybody can speak the same language. This is very important. So how do we start a dialogue that can be beyond language without moralising? Where are our chances?

Handel wrote songs of nature, the song cycle and just before the coronavirus outbreak, we managed to finish the rehearsal for a production of it, a music theatre production produced by Music Theatre Transparent with added music set by composer Wim Henderickx. It was such a soul-searching experience for us all, it almost felt, whilst all these rumours about where the virus will lead to outside were happening, while we were cocooning ourselves in this rehearsal room with members from every corner of the world, in one team, we stuck together and took refuge with each other and managed to create many amazing ideas. I think it is because of that urgent need and that bind we were confined into, that ideas were really fresh and come faster than usual. Although the premiere has been sadly postponed to next year, but how lucky we are to think back now. We had music with us in the most uncertain time and how amazing it is that we are still celebrating this only common language we all share between us and within us. So, let music be compassion, if compassion and love is the solution, which protect us from alienating from the truth. It will protect us, our inner nature against prejudice and against any sense of superiority, which is useless.

So, the wonderland, despite it is hard boiling, as Haruki Murakami once said, as long as we can hear the music within, we can go through it with wisdom that transcends us from songs to the great nature and to get through it to the end of the world, with glory, with a sense of humour, with courage and with a triumphant feeling.

This is where Handel meet with us today. This is where the great Buddha meets Greta.

As an end note, last but not least, I would like to use this message to share my thanks to those who are appreciating the longing for the next chance to be on stage and to appreciate the patience that we share at the moment, until we can get on stage again, until we can see each other face to face. As the Chinese say, “little waiting is better than being with each other.” The precise Chinese phrase is “little parting is sometimes more enjoyable than a long-standing marriage.” We treasure this break and we want to use this time to reflect and build something even greater, to be able to use this time to courageously think about those people who need our help through music. The people, our friends and families, who are affected by this ferocious virus and the frontline doctors and nurses or anyone in society that is holding on to us to survive the every day needs, when we all come out of it we could share this most special edpisodic moment of our lives that we are talking about right now as the most precious time, because we had every opportunity to talk to each other with warm-heartedness and compassion. That is the power of our human being, that we were born with and we should try to keep it and put it through into our artistic work and encourage everybody.

Hang in there and we will get through this very quickly. I hope we can enjoy the live music very soon. Good luck!”