The sound composition I presented at the event Noise Assembly 2019 — No One’s Island was the cumulative result of almost a decade of research and life experience from 2011 to 2019. In that time I faced many trials and difficult situations; family opposition, unstable income, irregular lifestyle, and a continuous struggle to launch my art career. I have swallowed all of this. For the audience the event was just a group noise show that lasted a brief moment, but for me it was part of a journey which has taken years to slowly carve out.
I“Customized Sound of an Island”
For my Noise Assembly performance I used two distinct sound sources in my composition, the first came from hacking a plasma globe and playing my handmade electronic instrument “sound light” which consists of three light bulbs connected to contact microphones. These sounds were run through second hand synthesizers to allow for greater manipulation. The second sound source came from hacking two buddhist chanting machines with a megaphone.
As expressed in the statement put out by the organizers of this festival, “each individual artist can be regarded as an island, playing their own free customized noise, they also can be connected with each other as a group of islands, mixing with other’s noise from the same group and playing a collective noise.” Following in this spirit, the audience couldn’t distinguish which sounds were being played by a single artist or any individual instrument, but rather became immersed in an integrated soundscape, the players and the audience were all together in a collective atmosphere.
When it comes to using repurposed electronic devices I want to push these objects beyond the sounds that they make when used in their intended fashion or “normal” function. The unexpected outcomes resulting from their intentional misuse is often the fun part of sound making. These sounds have a new mission and identity independent from the intentions of the manufacturer. They satisfy the audience’s desire for new sounds and expand their aural horizons.
Plasma globes are typically used as educational tools, or for atmosphere enhancement, decoration, sometimes to dazzle customers at a business opening. In 2015, I demonstrated how to use a pickup mic to record electromagnetic soundwaves from a plasma globe in my handmade electronic workshops at the The National Taiwan Science Education Center. During those workshops, I started to think that the plasma globe could also be used in a sound performance. To an audience the high pitch frequency sounds of my plasma globe can seem like a warning or error tone of the machines. Used in this way the plasma globe can break people’s perspectives or expectations of what the object can be. I also create sound by using my handmade electronic instrument “sound light”, this uses electromagnetic pickup microphones to record the sounds produced by wavering filaments as they hit their bulb’s inner side.
The preprogrammed songs of the Buddhist chanting machines are warped and destroyed by hand gesture to create a new kind of song. This new sound made people depart from familiarity and enter into a new soundscape. In September 2018, I was invited by Lacking Sound Festival and Music Hackspace to do an artist-in-residence at Somerset House, London. I developed my technique of using Buddhist chanting machines to create sound compositions in the residence workshops I conducted. I was first shown how to hack these machines by the artist Fujui Wang while working as his assistant. Using a photoresistor one can change the pitch of a machine, adjusting the speed of the chants it plays. Songs are stretched to the point where their original meaning collapses and the language becomes unintelligible in a conventional sense. The sound takes on an ethereal quality that is neither here nor there.
Photo credit to Vivy Hsieh
Special Thanks to Fujui Wang
Link of Noise Assembly 2019 — No One’s Island