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Show #4 im Rückblick: Species & Environment

(Übersetzung folgt) The sky had been overcast since early morning, a breeze chased raindrops through the village and Datscha Radio had to stay inside. The first guest to arrive was the Erhu instrumentalist and music teacher Huang Chen-Chi, who is a prominent member of the Taiwan Chinese Orchestra.

Huang Chen-Chi plays “Singing of Birds Resounds in the Valley” (空山鳥語)

The body of an Erhu consists of wood, and its front side is covered with a piece of snake skin. Along with the chamber it is fastened to, it makes a very expressive, soft, and even harsh timbre depending on the way the player uses the strings and bow. Chen-Chi had come to play three traditional compositions for Erhu on the event of Datscha Radio’s forth broadcast, on the 23rd of February. Along with her came Cathy from the THAV office to help with translation.

There are quite some differences to European violins. First, surely, the python skin. Also, the bow always stays attached to the strings as it is fastened in between to two of them (it’s a two stringed instrument).
Third, there are no frets, so the musician has to rely on her ear and sensitiveness. Forth, the tone changes the deeper you bend the string even without moving the position of the finger. And fifth, the Erhu comes without the hype of master manufacture companies and/or the adoration of old-age exemplars. The score looks very different too, as you can see here. It refers to bowing techniques (inner/outer string), left hand fingering (first, second, third forth finger) and to a complex set of musical interpretations (sliding, plucking, harmonies).

A typical score for Erhu

Playing the Erhu is closely connected to the feelings in your heart, says Chen-Chi, and the beauty of it is always borrowed from the soul.

Our conversation was followed by an interview (really only a part of it) I made on the 8th of February with the Bamboo Curtain Studio founder and Artistic Director Margaret Shiu. After sharing a traditional Chinese New Year orange our „Plum Tree Tea Talk“ followed a merrily winding path of conversation: from the founding of the BCS to urban gardening, from making selfies to concepts of natural beauty, from the making of enzymes to worries about Taiwan’s bee population. A third and last piece by Chen-Chi, Horseracing, I found way to short but I had her let to leave as she had students already waiting for her.

Yesterday’s topic of „Species and Environment“ brought in its wake quite a bit of email conversations along. Both, the composer Christine Muyco and her husband, Titus Levi, facilitated contacts to two artists I was happy to feature in the show.

Vegetative decoration!

The Japanese, Tokio-based composer Tomoko Momiyama works with human as well as non-human environments to conceive of her works and performances. Often, these are publicly staged concerts with a ritualistic background. For instance, she works with groups of children or indigenous people to develop a collective score and vocals for a given piece.

Meanwhile another studio guest had come inside together with Gabriele de Seta. Rikey Cheng is the chief editor of an online magazine called No Mans Land. We engaged in a conversation about IAS, Invasive Alien Species, pork meat from China and the aster taiwaniensis, a very common plant here in Taiwan … and the first plant that my eyes met when coming to the Artist Village.

Rikey Cheng explains pork policies

Together we listend to Jacki Apple’s piece „The Culture of Disappearance“ from 1991. A seminal radio opera, an incantation of loss, a lament for the lost species of this planet. … and since then, many many more have become extinct: 58 000/year. The work was streamed directly from the website of New American Radio… and that’s where you can find it next to other, no less famous works of her.

My „shop talk“ with Ms Muyco (in search of a „more silent“ place we ended up in shop front of a side street which turned out to be a through road) equipped me not only with a 35 min recording but also with two selected compositions of hers. The long one with the impressing title „Birthings in Liminal Space“ turned out to be a pervasive computer-generated soundscape floating on drones and aural frequencies. The guests had left, the rain conversed with the gutters and night had fallen.

The radio plays frog songs…

Time for the frogs to come out and chant their melodic choruses. For our listeners and myself this was the first time to appreciate the multi tonal, richly colored choirs of Yannick Dauby’s „Songs of the Frogs in Taiwan“. The three radios put up on the veranda and in the little fir tree by the house resonated with the frog’s voices. While I feared for their functionality, I just couldn’t bring them in before this last part of the broadcast had ended.

Links to the artist’s sites:
Tomoko Momiyama: https://www.tomokomomiyama.com/home-jp-1
Bamboo Curtain Studio/Margaret Shiu: http://bambooculture.com/en/taxonomy/term/2232
Jacki Apple: www.somewhere.org (New American Radio); installation work on “The Culture of Disappearance”
Christine Muyco: https://music.upd.edu.ph/MARIA_CHRISTINE_MUYCO.html
Nomansland: http://www.heath.tw/
Yannick Dauby: http://www.kalerne.net/

This post is also available in: Englisch