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artist support programme (ASP) alumni: Brian Chu Yin-woo

photo by South Ho

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Interview excerpt:

Brian CHU Yin-woo(龢wo4)’s practice involves the use of percussive instruments, the manipulation of cassette feedback, and the use of various found objects for the experimental purposes of exploring their sonorous properties. His practice is premised upon attentiveness to the echoes that resound from the surfaces of daily living, the sonic relationships between everyday objects, and an inclination towards the rhythms that they happen to produce.

Percussion is his visceral response to all of these. By performing under the name 龢wo4, he explores a language in which ‘I’ can inhabit and articulate a form of speaking that is his own, in a unique soundscape.

He participated and performed in the KLEX festival in Malaysia, 2019. Upon returning from the festival, 2020 saw the recording and self-release of his first record Spiral.

Brian Chu Yin-woo was supported by soundpocket’s Artist Support Programme 2018–19.

Personal website >>>

26.5.2021 (Mon)|5pm
Fu Lee Loy Shopping Centre

◎ Live Performance/ Improvisation

soundpocket: You have been performing live for a couple of years, have you seen any transformations in your performances?

Brian: Yes, there are some constant changes, although some have been forgotten. My early spirit of making sounds is relatively different from nowadays, despite that I have been playing with the same musical instruments, which are mainly percussion instruments. The frame drum is one of the instruments I play most of the time, and the gong, those are old instruments from my frame drum teacher back in the day – actually more than half of my instruments are from him. I had them at home for quite a while, until someone invited me to do a solo performance around 2018, and then I started to think about how to make use of these instruments.

soundpocket: So, you started to perform after learning frame drum?

Brian: Yes, but there were a few years between my learning and performance. I learnt frame drum between 2013–2016. I played in a band once, but that was years ago. Before I started to do solo performance, there were two to three years when I didn’t play in a band, or learn frame drum, yet every day I was playing the instruments on my own, for fun. I was trying to start doing solo performances, yet I couldn’t seem to find the right way of doing this. I started listening to music in alternative styles or genres – for example improvisation, experimental music, noise, music that is not limited to playing on a single instrument, or just a song with a melody. I started to find some inspirations and directions for my solo performance afterwards, something relatively experimental.

photo by Maximillian Cheng

◎ ‘10 Years of ASP’ and the performance “Corridor”

soundpocket: You mentioned there are many unexpected sounds in the outdoor environment that you can respond to, which makes it easier for you to start creating. In ‘10 Years of ASP’, you will be performing twice in Fu Lee Loy Shopping Centre, could you share your thoughts behind the performance “Corridor”, or your feelings towards the space of the shopping centre?

Brian: I found this shopping centre quite raw. It seems to have existed in this status for years, with nothing changing. It is rare to find such a raw space nowadays. This performance will go along a route through the shopping centre. My previous performances have usually involved a bunch of objects and tools, but I wish to gradually take away the number of objects I use in the performance, and to respond more to the found objects and environments of the space itself. This is what I want to explore in the future, and I see that the space of Fu Lee Loy has a lot of potential for doing these experiments.

I realized something interesting the first time I did sound tests in the space. You remember I usually play the cymbal, right? I played the cymbal while walking in the space, and I realized that besides the fact that we visualise the floor height via sight, the difference in echoes and the depth of the sounds also vary at various spots in the space. This new discovery inspires me to do a performance along a specific route.

Initially, I also thought of making a sound installation, yet I realised this medium is too new for me. I don’t really have time to explore this completely new direction, so I gave that idea up. Performance is the most familiar medium for me. I thought that maybe it was better not to switch to a completely unfamiliar field; let’s try something new in a familiar area.

photo by Maximillian Cheng

soundpocket: Besides your new discoveries about the echo and depth of sound and listening in the space, you also mentioned taking away the number of instruments you played in the performance, for example not playing the frame drum?

Brian: Could I say not playing the frame drum is a little bit of a risky decision for me to make? The sound of the frame drum has a soothing acoustic that people will find very comfortable listening to, and approachable. It is like a comfort zone for myself to play the frame drum in a performance, since no matter how badly I do, as long as there is a little session of frame drum, the audience can somehow engage with it. To me, the frame drum has a kind of spiritual connection. I will usually include a 5-minute session of the frame drum in a 30-minute performance. Since this performance will be taking place in a different environment, I just would like to try something new.

soundpocket: You mentioned you would like to explore making a sound installation or interacting more with the audience. Regardless of its practicality or difficulty, what would be your expectation for an installation or a workshop?

Brian: I have a small idea of how to make a sound installation. I always wanted to make a sounding object with metallic materials that I could perform with. This idea comes from my daily life as a farmer. In order to avoid the intrusion of wild boar in the fields, there are fences around my farmland that are made of iron poles, iron sheets, and wire cloth. For two months I was building these fences and a resting area, with my farmer friends. I was surrounded by the sound of hitting iron poles, cutting iron sheets, and the use of the electric screwdriver. I have always been attracted by these distinctive metallic acoustics, and maybe that’s the reason why I enjoy playing cymbals.

Also, sound is one of the clues with which to decide if an architectural structure is secure – for example, when the iron pole reaches the ground underneath, when you hit the iron pole, the pitch of the sound will become higher as the poles goes deeper. This is because the exposed area of the iron pole becomes smaller (as most of it is being embedded in the ground), the area of vibration eventually becomes smaller and makes the pitch higher. Yet, I realised people working with me do not pay as much attention to these acoustic variations as I do. Initially, I was thinking of reproducing these sounds by making an installation. I like metallic objects and would like to perform with this sounding installation that I envision. Regarding a workshop, I wish to have more exchanges with the audience via this meeting. I am curious how people listen and understand these sounds that I hear. This is my pure intention when considering doing the workshop.