Longing for Freedom
Closing remarks at The 20th Anniversary Memorial Concert of
¡°Tiananmen June 4th¡± and ¡°The Fall of the Berlin Wall¡± by Fengshi Yang
This evening we are remembering an event -- a longing for freedom. It was twenty years ago. In biblical terms one generation has passed. In personal terms, I was sitting in Mandel Hall at the University of Chicago that mid May twenty years ago when martial law was declared in Beijing. My life as a student and composer was being enriched by a fantastic performance of wonderful musicians. They were making my composition, entitled "Longing," come alive for the audience. I was trembling because I longed to be with my fellow Chinese students. Something of great importance was on the verge of happening we thought. I was longing for freedom to take root and grow in the land that gave birth to me. Freedom is the corner stone of the arts; freedom is the soul of life. The land I am standing on has given abundant nourishment for each seed¡¯s endeavor for liberty. Yet, twenty years ago, the answer to that call for freedom from the other side of the earth was an assault by tanks and guns¡
In the following 5 months, I felt lost -- like a leaf floating in the ocean. However, a chain of ¡°earthquakes¡± happening across Europe and Asia surprisingly conveyed a seed of inspiration from that June day; the Wall which symbolized communism¡¯s cutting off freedom suddenly collapsed in the middle of the night in that autumn. I listened tearfully to the former Soviet Union cellist Rostropovich¡¯s playing at the Berlin Wall. It felt as if he were telling me of his life¡¯s longing for freedom through music. During 16 years in exile, Rostropovich never surrendered to the oppressive powers regardless of the hardships. The fall of the Berlin Wall was the beginning of his new life. On the day people separated by the wall were reunited, he played J.S. Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Sonatas at the wall to communicate with the souls of those lost for the sake of freedom.
Today the Iron Curtain has fallen, the Berlin Wall is gone. But, It is sad for us and for the world that the portrait of Mao still hangs high on the Tiananmen gate... Rostropovich finally returned to Russia after 16 years in exile; BUT, I, for 16 years now, I still have not touched the soil of China. Two weeks ago, my dearest mother passed away suddenly in Shanghai. I pray my mom will forgive me for not saying a final good-bye at her side¡ I hope, when the time comes for this ¡°Chinese Berlin Wall" to fall, that like Rostropovich, I will also be able to return to my homeland to play my music, ¡°Ode to Freedom¡± at the Tiananmen Gate for the millions and millions of my brothers and sisters there. At that time, I believe all the Chinese exiles who seek freedom will be able go back to their homes with dignity, and let freedom truly ring in our beloved homeland, and in every corner of the world.