Multi-media performance, 2015, 21’00’’
Foxconn Frequency (no.2) — for one visibly Chinese performer investigates the consequences of disconnecting action and labour from sound. Using the poetry of Xu Lizhi (許立志) -a former Foxconn worker- as a structural blueprint to move through a series of dictations and testings, the piece seeks to create a space for failure and stakes. The most obvious and clear negation is the purposeful disconnection between the musician and her instrument. The use of technology here is meant to disrupt, instead of enable; to create a space of new possibilities through subtraction. For the core of the piece, a system was devised to “test” the performer’s competency with multiple exercises. This system calls these exercises (or “gestures”) differently every performance, keeping the performer present and engaged through-out the piece. The performer must execute these gestures successfully under shifting parameters that determine overall difficulty before progressing forward. This creates a scenario for the player to fail. While traditional scores have created difficulty, a software-driven system allows for new permutations. The generative and responsive nature of the system subverts any attempt for the performer to prepare. The struggle becomes real and perceptible, a part of the piece as it unfolds. There are many reasons for the restriction of “one visibly Chinese performer.” In music composition, we often specify instruments (e.g for solo violin), but almost never the body itself. By making this distinction, it is my intention to draw focus to the performer’s identity, to engage the eyes as well as the ears, and to bring attention to the “extra-musical,” shifting the mode of audience perception to multiple modalities. It felt necessary to specify race when confronting the narratives of Foxconn and Xu Lizhi’s poetry, as it is the Chinese body at work. The piano, an iconic Western object, is an equal presence to the body, acting as the main resonator and origin of most sounds. They are separated by physical distance, allowing us to see these two entities as separate, and not together (as in most concert music), and to explore this reconfigured space.
- Remy Siu 蕭逸南 (b.1990), Hong Kong Exile. Based in Vancouver, Canada. In the last two years, my practice has shifted from traditional acoustic music to audio-visual new media work. There are three main reasons for this change: 1) My shifting priorities as a composer. 2) Collaboration with theatre makers and choreographers. 3) The economics of being an artist in Vancouver, BC. Much of my work thus far involves dancers, actors, and musicians. However, the financial demands of such works have driven my artistic interests toward the construction of automated and variable performance apparatuses. I want to replace the traditional fixed ‘score’ with variable ‘tasks,’ foregrounding the interaction between system and performer. I feel the need to create friction; actions with consequences and failure. A common question in experimental theatre and dance is: ‘How do we create stakes for the performer?’ I find this is rarely asked in the worlds of contemporary new music and new media / electronic music performance. In an attempt to address this question in my own practice, I am exploring ways to problematize software/hardware interfaces and input/output for performance. The mechanics used in experimental video games have been highly influential. I see these concerns as an extension of my compositional practice and the issues at play in the chamber new music world. My approach is informed by James Saunders and his ‘modular composition’ pieces, Johannes Kreidler and ‘new conceptualism,’ the writings of Harry Lehmann on the digital revolution and new music, and finally, Brian Ferneyhough’s criticality of musician to score interaction and the score-object itself. I look forward to continuing this research in my future works. remysiu.com hongkongexile.com
- Vicky Chow, USA, Bang On A Can All-Stars bangonacan.org/bang_on_a_can_all_stars vickychow.com
- Paul Paroczai, Canada paulparoczai.bandcamp.com
Full text and photo (PDF) p. 253-255
Commissioned by the Western Front (Vancouver, BC, CA), with assistance from the SOCAN Foundation. Special Thanks to DB Boyko and the Western Front Staff.