30 July 2013

Chisel Music

I'm vacillating between two facing hole-in-the-wall Sichuan restaurants in Jiefangbei recommended by the Chongqing chapter of my guidebook, when I realize there's a minimalist process concert happening all around me. Men with hammers and chisels are splitting the pavestone sidewalk piece by piece behind the partial cover of temporary construction fences, their hammers ringing against mortar with ear-splitting force on the leading tone, tonic, and dominant. I record for the next twenty-six minutes, hypnotized into feeling as if only fifteen or so have passed.

Afterwards I try to take surreptitious photographs of the workers. The one nearest me gestures for me to photograph as he works, and cheerfully checks out my results. " 很好听 " I tell him appreciatively in my elementary Mandarin, wondering if he also thinks their hard physical work sounds hypnotically beautiful. The grandmothers who have been sitting under a tree the whole time eye me with bemusement, or perhaps understanding.


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