A hot question buzzing on the Internet
in China this week is this: Did the Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang mean to send a
pointed message with the song he played at
the state dinner at the White House last
(Soundbite of song, "My Motherland")
BLOCK: The song is called "My Motherland."
It was written for a Chinese movie about the
Korean War from 1956.
(Soundbite of song, "My Motherland")
(Soundbite of film, "Battle on
(Soundbite of music)
Unidentified Woman: (Singing in foreign
BLOCK: The film portrays the war as a
triumph over U.S. imperialism and has been
used as anti-American propaganda. But I when
I reached Lang Lang today, he said he had no
idea about any of that.
Mr. LANG LANG (Pianist): The truth is, I
only know this piece because it's a
beautiful melody. And, actually, I played
many times as encore before because it's,
artistically, it's a beautiful piece. I
never thought about, you know, and I never
knew about anything about, you know, the
BLOCK: Well, some people, as you know, on
blogs in China, are seizing on this, saying
that it was a moment for a world famous
pianist to sort of drop a note of
nationalism, of Chinese nationalism into the
Mr. LANG LANG: You know, that's the last
thing I want to do because, first of all,
you know, I grew up as a teenager in
America. I mean, I studied at Curtis. And I
feel both China and America is my home. And,
you know, I have a really wonderful emotions
towards American people. And I have a lot of
my great friends, my teachers, are all from
So for me, you know, to be invited to play
at White House is a great honor. And
especially, you know, to play for president
of my homeland and also the country which I
live, which is America. So, I only wanted to
bring the best, you know, of the music
melodies. And that's it, you know. I am
absolutely say it from bottom of my heart
that, you know, I think music, it's a bridge
between our cultures.
BLOCK: The song that you played, in the
movie, in the "Battle on Shangganling
Mountain," which came out in 1956, it is a
very nationalistic song and it...
Mr. LANG LANG: You
know, I never know about that movie. I
just learned it afterward. It's like, 1956.
This is when my mother was two years old. I
mean, this is 55 years ago. And when I grew
up, I only hear this as a beautiful melody.
That's it. And this piece is very popular as
a traditional Chinese song.
BLOCK: I've been told that this song is a
favorite at karaoke bars.
Mr. LANG LANG: Yeah. I mean, it's just,
you know, it's a song that, like, everyone
in the Chinese world knows about the melody.
You know, I mean, that's the truth. I mean,
I choose it because its beautiful melody. I
have this connection through the melody.
It's a really beautiful melody.
BLOCK: Well, Lang Lang, what were your -
how did you react when you heard that in
China, on the Web, people were adding
meaning to this choice thinking you were
sort of thumbing your nose at the United
States in some way? What did you think?
Mr. LANG LANG: I
feel very sad. You know, I very sad. And,
you know, and I must say, disappointing. Because,
you know, as a person, what I'm trying to
do, and what my missions are, you know,
making music. And, you know, I'm very
honored that people inviting me to play in
those great events and to connect us to
classical music and to music, to Chinese
music and to American music, to, you know,
to world music. And once, you know, people
use it as a political issue, that makes me
really sad because I am a musician. I'm not
BLOCK: Well, Lang Lang, it's good to talk
to you. Thanks very much.
Mr. LANG LANG: OK. Bye-bye.
BLOCK: The pianist Lang Lang talking about
the song, "My Motherland," which he played
at the state dinner for Chinese President Hu
Jintao at the White House last Wednesday.