Playing it by ear
BY wangxingwei from 21st Century
Published 2020-09-18
Xiong Linghao relies entirely on the sound to play the piano. CHINA DAILY

A video clip of a blind musician has captured the attention of many in China. Xiong Linghao, 18, played a Beethoven sonata in the national finals of the 13th Shanghai International Youth Piano Competition in August.

The video, published on China Daily’s Sina Weibo account, has been viewed more than 7 million times. Many internet users said they were touched by Xiong’s bravery and optimism. “This is the song to salute life,” one comment on the post read.

Xiong lost her eyesight in early infancy due to a medical accident. Her mother discovered Xiong had a talent for music early in her childhood. At age 3, she could play children’s songs on a small electric piano. At age 6, she started learning the piano.

“The piano is my best friend,” said Xiong, a high school student at the Chengdu Special Education School. “It brings so much pleasure into my life and empowers me with perseverance.”

Unlike most pianists, who play by reading music, Xiong relied entirely on the sound of the music to guide her. “I listened to the melody repeatedly and then put what I heard to my fingers. I first practiced with my two hands separately before I could play with both hands together,” said Xiong.

“Repeated practice is key because I need muscle memory to find the right keys,” she explained. “I pay attention to each minor step in each phrase and need to be fairly precise with the angle of how I control my hands, wrists and fingers.”

Xiong was honored with the Special Jury Prize in the competition. “Through her piano playing viewers could feel the irrepressible vitality of life and a truly strong will,” said Ding Quan, a judge in the competition.

“I never pursued prizes or fame while learning music,” explained Xiong. “Like Beethoven, I wanted to express hope, feelings and passion for life [in difficult conditions] through the piano.”

(Translator & Editor: Wang Xingwei AND Ji Yuan)
Sonata  奏鸣曲
Optimism  乐观
Infancy  婴儿期
Perseverance  毅力
Melody  旋律
Minor  微小的
Phrase  乐句
Angle  角度
Wrists  手腕
Vitality  活力
Fame  名声
Passion  热爱