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Sonic Anchor #26 Review - The Spirit of Kinetic
Text: Au-Yeung Hoi Ki


The 26th edition of Sonic Anchor presented two interactive pieces, both collaborations between artists. The first piece, Air From 445 Miles Away, was composed and performed by Leung Kei-Chuek, Gaybird (a Hong Kong music producer) and Wong Chung-Kun (a Taipei-based sound artist), with their custom-made sound sculpture wind-instrument and interactive visual installation. The second piece, Foxconn Frequency (no.2), written by Remy Siu specifically for a Chinese performer, was aptly performed by Vicky Chow (a Chinese pianist from Canada). The piece expressed a conceptual idea of separating sound from action through its specialised system and rules.

Whilst the audience entered the studio before the concert began, they could not miss the stunning custom-made instrument and installation on stage – a series of colourful speakers lining up on the left, a set of organ pipe-like tubes in the middle, followed by various controlling devices and tangled connectors on the right. On the backdrop, two bended fluorescent tube frames were installed. Such mindful set-up already hinted a powerful piece and an anticipating programme.

The show was led by Wong Chung-Kun, who played among the speakers and created layers of sound like those generated by buzzers. He tapped on the speakers to adjust the tendency of the diaphragm and the power supply for controlling pitch and dynamic. As the piece progressed, he made different rhythmic patterns to increase the complexity. In a new section, when the air-tubes were introduced, it was Gaybird’s turn and he manipulated several electronic music excerpts and beats, and pushed the music to the next level with interactive visual effects. As the fluorescent light frames on the backdrop synchronised with the sound, the experience was enhanced. Towards the ending, both artists got into their parts and brought up to the climax.

The distance in the title Air From 445 Miles Away refers to that between Hong Kong and Taipei where the two artists reside; “air” denotes the significant medium in the piece – the flow of air was the mechanism of how those custom-made wind instrument produced sound and fundamentally how sound or music is transmitted. The artists’ intent of making the piece becomes explicit and direct, echoing the simplicity of a custom-made instrument. The thoughtful preparation and the delicate performance successfully aroused the audience’s interest and excitement.

For the second part of the programme, there came another stage setting for Foxconn Frequency (no.2). An upright piano with its cover opened at the back under spotlight while an electronic keyboard was set right in front of the audience attached to a camera and a monitor screen.

As the light dimmed, pianist Vicky Chow came upon the keyboard with a square frame projected around her. She played a fast passage excerpt with one hand. However, the audience could not hear what was playing spontaneously; by watching her fingers fast in action, one could only hear sound from the friction of the keys and other sound generated from a computer system. As she played various patterns, the main screen at the back displayed several sets of number. The number combinations represented Chinese Commercial Codes. Soon after, the screen output switched to the camera where Vicky was framed in a typical gaming interface with timer and scoring indicator. Screen colour flashes according to Vicky’s score. After each round (of game), the results would be announced. Vicky failed several times for some excerpts, and was asked to retry until the level was cleared. The coding screen and gaming interface alternated while some messages were shown in transition. She failed at the last attempt, and the piece eventually ended with a final message.

The performance separating performer’s action and sound was not a common experience to the audience that their attention and reception might be confused. The notion of separating action and sound also posed a contradiction to the performer’s mind, especially for such skilful and experienced pianist who has been trained to perform flawlessly over the keyboard. However, it was mistake that made this piece intriguing. This conceptual piece successfully brought up tension and probably altered our understanding to sound in a different way.

The artists’ creative ideas were largely expressed and different aspects of sound kinetics were well presented. The programme was fascinating – the chemistry between the artists enriched the show.


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