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artist support programme (ASP) alumni: Alvin LEE Siu-hin

photo by South Ho

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Alvin Lee Siu-hin grew up in Hong Kong and New York. He discovered his interest in recording music during his Bachelor of Art degree studying the visual arts, as he constantly wrote songs for his artworks and friends. Upon graduation, he obtained several grants to participate in overseas artist residencies and performances, which included the Emerging Artist Grant offered by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council in 2018.

Alvin Lee Siu-hin was supported by soundpocket’s Artist Support Programme 2015–16.

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Interview excerpt:

05.06.2021 (sat)|4pm
Fu Lee Loy Shopping Centre, Hong Kong

◎ Recently: Diving into music creation

soundpocket: How would you describe the music you make?

Alvin: I write music and songs mostly for friends and girls, I never really put much thought into defining what I make. From arranging to lyrics, I do it all on my own and enjoy every bit of it. Since I grew up listening to foreign music, with the tunes I put up on YouTube I tried to… write Cantonese lyrics created from an English mindset. Although I’m aware of the limitations in terms of language, I still want to see if this works.

soundpocket: You’ve been writing Cantonese lyrics all along?

Alvin: Yes, I rather insist on doing that. As I studied in the USA during my childhood, this experience brought me several [cultural] shocks. When I was not physically present in Hong Kong, I grew fonder and more nostalgic of everything there. So when I’m creating, I try to compose in my mother tongue.

photo by Wong Ka-wing

◎ “MUT DO MUT SIU” in ‘10 Years of ASP’

soundpocket: Lately you created “MUT DO MUT SIU” for ‘10 Years of ASP’ (2021). How did you initiate this concept? Does the name come from one of your projects? Or is it an album name, or your persona for publishing music?

Alvin: “MUT DO MUT SIU” is a persona. It is the name of a music project too, just like a musician I admire also uses a similar name to portray himself.

And the origin of the name [MUT DO MUT SIU], dates back to my duo-exhibition with another soundpocket artist Dave [Dave Chow, supported artist of Artist Support Programme 2017–18]. He held an exhibition called ‘EQUILIBRIUM’ (2018).

At that time, I came up with this idea of “EQUILIBRIUM” for our exhibition. We wanted to shape a state in which everything was more balanced and natural, in which most of the exhibited works weren’t presented as an explosive expression, but they were relatively subtle. That was the first performance of “MUT DO MUT SIU”. This was inside the Foo Tak Building, where we built an arc-shaped glass space to display the exhibition works, and I performed music in this glass room. This experience rippled out to everything else.

soundpocket: Regarding the neon light work in ‘10 Years of ASP’, do you have any special thoughts? Why do you want to showcase it to the audience in this presentation?

Alvin: Using the neon tube, I shaped the font for my future album cover, which I co-designed with a designer. I see it as a teaser, or simply getting people to know the name, in the hope of arousing the audience’s wonder. Just like at the exhibition opening, after taking photos of the work, some people asked about the work, they wanted to know what this [the name] was about.

photo by Wong Ka-wing

◎ The presentation and deviation of music

soundpocket: Have you thought of how to distribute the music works?

Alvin: Usually I will share them via my Facebook Page [@mutdomutsiu]; sometimes I share them with different friends privately. Actually, while I was making these songs, I struggled as they deviated from my expectations.

soundpocket: Can you tell us more about your preliminary expectation? After the distribution of your work, how was it different from your expectation?

Alvin: When I completed my first work in mid-2019, which was at the start of the Anti-Extradition Law Movement, I was questioning the meaning of creations that just concerned personal sentiments. In early 2020, when I tried to distribute my work, it happened to be the outbreak of the pandemic, and again I questioned the meaning of what I was doing. But at last, I think that being capable of doing what one enjoys, that is sufficient.

◎ Visual elements in music work

soundpocket: You mentioned that you’ve been thinking of the best ways to distribute the work. I watched the work you uploaded. In addition to the song, you also added some visual elements. Do you believe only “sounds with visuals” form a complete work? Or the song per se already carries the main theme, while the visual is a bonus element, allowing more interpretation of the song?

Alvin: It should be the latter. The visual should serve as a supporting part. Technically speaking, I don’t see it as a music video, but only a collage of images, which is also a sort of test for me. I remember I only inserted one photo on the first track, and then when it came to the second track, I started to think if I could add something flowing… [Compared to the images] I would rather focus on the song, as when I listen to a song, I rarely watch its music video.

soundpocket: Did you also do the visual design of those videos?

Alvin: Yes, those are from some daily footage I collected. Sometimes my friends helped with the filming, and sometimes I captured it while going out by myself.