Text: Fang, Yen-Hsaing
Translate: Yvonne Kennedy
In the year 2011, a connection to the network of (either a physical or abstract network community), bears witness to a (new) world in the midst of revolution. We feel the magnitude of contemporary times -- from the Jasmine Revolutions in the Arab world, to the white iPhones for sale in the corner store; from anti-imperialism to the worship of consumerism. We witness all, but rarely see the “real world” at present. In fact, our sense of revolution originates in the masses struggling and escaping a multitude of traps. These correspond to the frontiers of contemporary life. Since “the frontiers of imperialism are not external but internal”, traps exist in the sensory organs of daily living, and elements of flight-from-fright have been helpfully removed for you. Your greatest comfort is the elimination of the edict that “fear is not extrinsic but within”. Not only does this represent the contemporary fate of the vanguard, it is also the challenge we most need to confront today.
The sound that we are listening to at this particular moment speaks to a perspective of urban phenomenology: conveyed on the mass-transport of “progression” and “crossover”, the scene within the gaze is sworn to the name of “i” on high-definition screens and illuminating white arcs. On the surface, it is an image of a nomad, but within lies a comprehensive neoliberal democratic technical interface. If we add a zoom-out, it would begin from the minute programming language and pan out at high speed to a scene of the sound-saturated city. However, when we locate the sound within the realm of urban studies, this scene created by sound, voice and resonance becomes a part of the mythical urban cliché.
Today’s performance of two contrasting groups, presents two different versions of temporal theater against the same backdrop -- this is exactly the scene that is often projected by electronic sound.
While both using computer programming as their tool for creative interface, the performances differ in concept and style. In the opening act, Empty Space On A Chessboard, the “image-music” is an extremely “impressionistic” electronic sound. Using a repetitious central melody, fragmented electronic rhythms, digital sound and crystal moments of cityscapes, a game of channeling flow and alternating permutations along timeline begins. It attempts to interpret a temporal notation of a virtual city in an exercise of “sequencing time” through isometric segmentation. Fujui Wang's work is a sound of complete "anti-simulation”; by “seeing” the “substantive” and “tangibility” effects created by low-limit and low-frequency white noise (including the sampling of a spectrum of classical and modern music and radio reception), a “friction” and “vacuum” is created in the slip and slide of waveforms. The duration of time is injected into the material point of a type of bandwidth art.
With the proliferation of our operating system (digital media), and as the threashold is lowered for corresponding operating technologies within this system (a result of democratization) – the production mode of sound, music, and resonance has gradually become similar to another form of art – design. (Or, to paraphrase Jacques Rancière, “the surface of design”.) Only, the subject of initiation differs. Sound design emphasizes the redistribution in the continuity of “auditory sense” (in other words, stretching out the time.) With the same industrial art characteristics, the musical progression within the scope of computerized music, the systematized auditory sensory redistribution technology and interface is projected, reallocated, redistributed and planned in a capitalist mode. A “song that can’t be danced to” (or strictly speaking, doesn’t allow dance), “a low-bass beat that doesn’t give a high”, “a trip that doesn’t hop” indicates an escape path for sound (Empty Space On A Chessboard), or a severe amplitude of white noise that beats upon the “ear-mind” and body (Fujui Wang), are both possible strategies.
Today, it isn’t that our urban myth doesn’t exist, but that our collective imagination is waiting to make that leap. Perhaps we can go further, with a re-defined notion of "pop music" to conceptualize sound: not only to point to the easily acceptable musical arrangements and performance techniques to create the sort of popular music that is pleasing to the ear and easily remembered, but it also includes the sound art that utilizes the tools of new media to restrict our sense of time, even as they sound like a deconstruction of rhythm.