Remember_move subtleness: Improvisation Music from Beijing
2/F, No. 9 Queen Victoria St., Central, Hong Kong
19 March 2011
Organized by Doublehappiness Studio at the Vision Bookcafe, this questionably titled sound event brought together some of the leading figures in Beijing experimental music for a one-off collaboration in Hong Kong. Whereas the Beijing sound art and new music scene has for some time appeared as a wild free-for-all of experimentation and play, characterized by harsh noise and uncaring improvisation, its Hong Kong counterpart is tied more strictly to the arts of composition and an academic background. All of this makes for an interesting study in contrasts when those more on the musical side of things--including local luminaries Cedric Maridet, Sebastian Seidel, Paul Yip, Steve Hui, and Choi Sai Ho--get together to listen to and critique the work of guitarist Li Jianhong, VJ GogoJ, laptop artist Vavabond, and saxophonist Jun-Y Ciao.
The latter four offered first a series of solo sets, then coming together in a collective improvisational piece that lasted approximately the length of two of the preceding sets. Many viewers seemed most impressed with the mechanics of the Vavabond performance; the artist used samples of microsound objects like insect wings to create broader movements, but several complained that they had hoped to see her process elaborated more fully. Many in the audience were unswayed by the romantic but highly technical stylings of Li Jianhong himself, considered one of the most progressive Beijing musicians at the moment. Both Li and Ciao were criticized for reaching the high moments of their improvisational work too early, failing to build up a more interesting trajectory or duly emphasizing the slower, lower possibilities of their instruments. Likewise, collaboration between electronics and instruments during the cooperative jam was said to be lacking; although Li and Ciao played off of each other, GogoJ and Vavabond on their laptops seemed to be working on another register entirely. Nevertheless, the experience was instructive and--fair being fair--I expect to see a similar critique the next time Nerve, A Roller Control, and ST play in Beijing.
-- Robin Peckham
(All images courtesy of Xue Tan.)