It’s been a big few weeks! I went to Hong Kong to pick up some instruments, and then made my way home via Xishuangbanna, 2 night trains and an overnight sleeper bus built for tiny people. My stable bed in Lashihai has never been so appreciated.
Hong Kong is a crazy place. After living in China for 3 months, it felt like a giant Chinatown that was built on the side of a mountain, in a sauna. The sheer pace of the place, and the amount of languages and the clash of Eastern and Western architecture, shopping styles and sense of personal space was overwhelming. Bamboo scaffolding holding up barechested-barefooted workers above a glass walled Parthenon to finance filled with white men in suits who would be drenched in sweat if they ever went outside.
I successfully picked up everything on my list on the first day. An Electric upright bass, a fancypants keyboard, and vegan chocolate. This is the list of things required that we can’t purchase in Lijiang. Seriously, the chocolate here is terrible.
So that left me with a day for traveling, and I headed straight out to Lamma Island. One of the outlying Islands of Hong Kong.
It’s apparently where the hippies of HK live. It’s beautiful, there are no cars, and a ton of seafood restaurants. I hiked across the top of the Island, in some crazy hot weather, with a bag full of the shopping I’d done for the long trainride home. That was some very well traveled Coconut water!
The train was a very long trip. 30 hours across the bottom of China. Somehow I got a 4 bed berth all to myself for the vast majority of the trip. It turns out that I was rarely alone, however… as being the only visibly foreign person on the train, and doing a mixture of Chinese homework and cross-stitch is a guaranteed way to get people to stand in the doorway and stare.
That’s right… cross stitch! I’ve started a new project of translation across language and artistic practices.
It’s the first in a series, so we’ll see if my legible cross-stitch characters are ongoing, or simply beginners luck! It’s a famous first line from a well known English language novel. Any guesses?
One of my favourite things about being here is language, and translation. Hearing more and more words pop out from streams of previously incomprehensible Chinese. Telling a story in English, and then hearing Jay translate it and listening to my cadence moving to another persons whim. Learning more language, and finding that cultural interpersonal habits start to make more sense in context. Language tells so much about a place, and so much nuance is lost in all but the most fluent translations.
This project is about all of that, mashing English literature with Chinese language; and Chinese inspired art with the most English art form I could think of.
After the slow train to Kunming, I headed down to Xishuangbanna to meet Naima. We met some lovely people, saw some amazing things, ate some great food and made a big leap in our main project here. I’m sure she’ll write more about all of that so I’ll just put some photos here:
Now we’re back, and getting back to work! It’s been a really steep learning curve here for me as a musician. I’ve never worked with a composer directly before, and it’s really interesting to go through the stages of creation together. Having rehearsal meetings where I play the new draft and then we both say “don’t like that bit as much, but the ending is awesome now!” or some paraphrased version of that. It’s also a challenge, because often music feels awkward under the hands for a while, and then *ding!* suddenly makes sense, and those often end up being the most magic moments. I don’t want to smooth out all the rough edges only to discover that they were the points of interest all along…
I’m also really missing all my regular improv and musical collaborators and co-performers. You know who you are! Working as a solo artist is a really different experience. I have a ton of recordings and experiments with graphic scores and the like that I’ve been working on, but without the to and fro of a group rehearsal I seem to be lacking the knowledge of when they’re ready to go. This residency was always a process of exploration for me, of what direction my music can and will travel. There’s still time to explore more ideas, but I’m finding that I’m stagnating in creating solo works, and am really eager for my friends and collaborators and fellow instrumentalists who will be here in June to arrive! For some of us it will be a first time collaboration, but with Crystal Pasccuci, that’s not the case! We went to grad school together at the Hartt School of music, CT, and this musical reunion has been a long time coming!
I’m not sure how much of my bass-reluctance is fear of my own ideas, and not being well practiced at the art of solo performance. Over the last few years I’ve really worked hard at being a good chamber and supporting musician. I’m sure it’s not to the detriment of any solo work, but it’s become quite clear how out of practice I am at putting myself out there as a soloist. I can write a lot about this, but I’m not sure how to do so in a non self-indulgent-total-wanker type way. Let’s just say that I’m struggling to find my voice. In ensemble work my voice is supported and supportive. Reactive and reacted to. It’s difficult to find the same level of interest and complexity without the to and fro of differing instrumental ideas.
By next week I aim to have some of my score-experiments up and ready to show y’all. I’m saying this so that I’m committed to doing so. It’s the experimental music version of ‘pics or it didn’t happen’.