I have always been concerned about the environment, the welfare of animals, and human rights. This project was originally drawn from an experience I had as a high school student in which I performed a folk song for a Chinese New Year celebration held at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The impact of playing this song, especially for the elderly members of the audience, made a permanent impression on me in terms of how music can transport one to a completely different place and time. The night after I saw the Discovery Channel documentary Racing Extinction, I didn’t sleep at all. I was deeply moved by the site of shark fins as far as the eye could see and the haunting image of a shark whose fins had just been severed, tragically struggling to survive. I was also greatly affected by the story of the Kauai O’o bird that was essentially loved to extinction. The O’o bird became extinct in 1987 after being hunted to extinction for its beautiful feathers. Both the male and female O’o birds were singing birds. The final male bird sang for a female bird who would never reply.
I knew that I had to do something. I envisioned a story about a beautiful Chinese girl who was the beloved of a local farmer. Sadly, the farmer only admired her from a distance. One night, the girl (Hualing) was spirited away in a dream by unknown forces. She is carried over mountains with sharp edges, dirt, and sea. She eventually disintegrates into dust, never to be seen or heard from again. The farmer (Chaoxiang) is destined to wait for her forever. The sense of being carried away in a dreamlike state and finally turning to dust is what I use to represent the experience of an animal when captured and put to death, frequently in very gruesome ways.
The violin solo Song of Spring was written in the spring of 2016 for an Earth Day “Stringing Words Together” program I performed with poet Joan Kantor. The piece was well received by audiences but I still had the yearning to set it with a folk tale in a music video. I wrote the script and scene descriptions in the fall of 2016. Next to follow was my collaboration with animator Susan Lee with whom I connected through Full Sail University. Susan is an incredibly gifted artist. This project would not have gotten off the ground without her artistry. Around the time I first talked to Susan in mid January 2017, Tyrus Wong, the animator for Disney’s Bambi had just passed away. Wong’s water color-like animation was innovative and I thought this style would be a good fit for Song of Spring. It was Susan’s idea to have an O’o bird turn into the character Chaoxiang at the beginning of the video. In mid February, actor Cecilia Lee recorded the voice over narration.
The message of this movie is to not be like Chaoxiang. If there is something you feel strongly about, don’t wait to act upon it because you might lose your opportunity forever. We all need to make better choices in terms of our relationship to the environment, animal welfare, and human rights. There is real suffering in the world that is completely unnecessary. There are many organizations that you can support, some of which are listed below.
As always, act locally, think globally.