REVIEW – Musicacoustica 05 (by YAN Jun)

Below is my translation of YAN Jun‘s review of one performance in Musicacoustica 2005, Beijing. The original review (in Chinese) can be read here.

Went to the Performing Hall of Central Conservatory yesterday for Musicacoustica 2005, a full house of people with poor taste who always applauds on the wrong occasion – what an enthusiastic community we have for new music!

The first act was a trio of Peter Cusack (Guitar), Clive Bell (various custom-made woodwind novelties, like juxtaposing two ox horns side-by-side) and Nic Collins (trombone with effects and mute, and the sound was then routed to computer, he didn’t actually blow the thing but playing with feedback). There’re basically no music there, only little snippets of sounds crushing against each other. The 3 sounds were interwoven in an subtle way, sometimes intercepted by a period of silence. There were not much emotional energy involved, but it’s accurate and courteous, like some teacups was slowly raised to their lips as merely a “gesture”, and then let go and fell to the ground. Perfect yuppie model of British free improv.

It is the best part of the show.

Now it’s the turn of a big guy playing electric-violin – of course it’s being processed by computer. I was fascinated by his sound, which is an exaggeration of the instrument’s flexible and rich tone. The DSP was (within my expectation) well-designed and accurate.

And then we had a young kid playing manipulated recordings of the ocean.

I had a chat with Clive during the intermission, we missed each other in Waterland Kwanyin the other day. A shameless self-advertisement: Clive asked me if I’ve read The Wire, I said not yet. He said “don’t worry, it’s positive, I like that CD”. He was talking about Another 2 Comrades(?外两??志) + YAN Jun + Top Floor Circus(顶楼的马?团)‘s Shanghai live imporv album, which will be…available on the TFC live at Xinhaoyun Bar(新豪?)this Saturday.

The latter half of the performance started with a professor controlling the software he developed, while another guy was playing electric-bass for him – the two are more like demonstrators of the software.

A handsome fellow in flashy shirt presented his work which takes Chinese Kun Qu (Kun Opera) as the sound source, it’s a beautiful voice, but its appeal fades when compared to Dajuin Yao‘s Cinnabar Red Drizzle. The guy standing in front of the mixing console was so “pseudo-arty” in appearance that he caught my attention immediately: pigtail, baseball cap, over-sized waist bag, and a long wire hanging from his ear. He was so excited with those better-late-than-never beats and his body began to twist and shake. When all those brainless beats ceased, there was a low-frequency tone lasting about 15 seconds, the volume was so low that even with a full day’s hard work and restless thoughts you will still surrender to its soothing tenderness at once. My applause goes to this ending.

The final act was a duo of one white man and one Japanese lad (why don’t they call themselves FM6?). They had 2 long, narrow iron boxes in white which resembles those used by the mutton barbecue hawkers, the actual name of the novelty is “Double Harmonics Guitar”. The sound they made was as beautiful as Christiaan Virant‘s manipulation of Gu Qin (Chinese zither), but there were no effects filters involved, only the spontaneous harmonics resulted from painstaking calculation. The duo also has a metallic, colder edge attached to its sound, making the music kinda mathematical. Spaciness, blankness, lingering and silence – all those essence of Japanese cultural heritage were there. I was informed that some Conservatory students standing in the rear end were whistling and singing Chinese National Anthem at the sight of a Japanese musician on stage, how true it is that there are no frontiers for people’s hatred and misunderstanding! How can you be sure that Hideki TOJO(东?英机) hasn’t reincarnated into a Chinese Nationalist? And our government is more than happy to shift the too-hard-to-take responsibilities to right-wing activists, it’s a trick which is in line with our nature, namely “playing dirty”. Well, Universities are indeed a perfect place for brainwash.

The two guys later told me: we actually prefer playing in clubs, not a place like this. Hoo-ray, see you on Saturday.

(translated by Lawrence Li)

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1 Comment »

  1. sjytuyioiu said

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