Pet Sounds: Paulina Lee

Pet Sounds: A series in which teaching staff and students from the English Department reflect on a piece of music or song. [Read all entries.] [Revisit the “Headspace” series.] [Revisit the “Ongoing” series.] [Revisit the “Interrogative” series.]

Edmund Leung.png

“Do you think music is a dangerous thing?”
All of a sudden, E threw out this question in between puffs of his cigarette.

“I don’t know, but for me, music is beautiful.” I said.
“That’s why I feel sad when I see music being policed on the streets.”

When I talked to E, my gaze always strayed to the large handpan sitting next to his feet. The instrument was inside a custom-fitted backpack. Its heaviness was in dramatic contrast to the lightness of E’s slippers.

“But people can still survive without music, can’t they?” E asked.
“I don’t think so, or I simply don’t know… I cannot imagine how my life can be separated from music, songs and melodies,” I said.

Sometimes I even believe that I have forgotten so much about myself. It is actually the recurring melodies and tunes that create an illusion that I have forgotten nothing about a certain period of time and certain movements of space. Or it may even be nothing about memories: it is the sound that has frozen a certain presence of myself.

“That’s exactly why the government need to suppress music. Once you control the sounds that can be made in the city, you control the people’s traces to their past lives, and you take away their strength and vision for the future,” E said. He stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray.

“More importantly, you take away their ability to love. With music killed off, connections are gone; only differences and indifference remain.” E stood up and carried his handpan on his back. It was almost half the size of his body. I wonder how heavy this spaceship-shaped instrument was. Was it as heavy as a responsibility?

“Music is so dangerous. That’s why I am still playing it.”
He turned away and walked towards the theatre.

A year later, I brought E’s music with me to an audition in Amsterdam. After my performance, it won me new friends who were very interested in the music I had used. “The music is called ‘The Train’. It is a piece of handpan music from Hong Kong… inspired by the sounds and rhythms of the city…” When we talked about music our voices became songs, we forgot about competitions, we hugged spontaneously – “Music is so dangerous.”


The links to Edmund Leung’s handpan music—

The Train:


Pocketful of Memories:


PaulinaPaulina Lee is a BA graduate in Stylistics and Comparative Literature (Class of 2015). [Click here to read all entries by Paulina.]

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