Critical Music series: Interview with Sheng Jie (part 2)

This is the second and final part of the interview with Sheng Jie (aka gogoj), discussing her activities as a visual artist and experimental musician in China. Link to the first part of the interview.

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Critical Music series: Interview with Sheng Jie (part 1)

This is a new series of posts for this blog focusing on individuals, groups, or organisations that have played notable roles in the history of critical music practices in China. These practices appears in many different guises, often described as “experimental music” or “sound art”, neither of which is entirely satisfactory in describing the practices which often exist in many hybrid forms. My adoption of the term “critical music” (following the writings of G Douglas Barrett) attempts to avoid the limitations of these terms, while highlighting the active nature of the sound component of the practices. These posts will primarily take the form of interviews, each one aiming to place the subject within the general history of critical music practices in China, and contextualise their current practice within their overall development.

Sheng Jie (aka gogoj) is a visual artist and musician based in Beijing. Much of her current experimental music and sound work reflects her study of the violin and cello, as well as of video and performance art. Since returning to Beijing from college in France in 2005, she has been developing various forms of audio/visual performance using these elements. Recently she has begun incorporating a gesture-based computer interface that allows her to “manually” manipulate her video and audio signals on stage. In this interview she talks about her practice and how it has developed, her relationship with the music and art worlds in Beijing, and why she adopted this gesture interface. The interview covers a lot of ground, and so has been split over two days for convenience. Part two will be published on this blog tomorrow.

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Asian Dope Boys ‘Mortuary’ Event at ModernSky Labs

Vagus Nerve (Wei Wei, Li Jianhong, Josh Feola, Yu Lubai, with dancer Maomao) and Aïsha Devi performing at last night’s ‘Mortuary’ Event by Asian Dope Boys.

MIX: Experimental Sound from China

As my own contribution to World Listening Day (tomorrow, July 18 2013), and at the invitation of Jason Coburn at 8trk radio, I’ve put together a mix of recent work by some experimental musicians and sound artists in China. The sounds require a commitment of time and patience, but I hope you can take an hour out of your day to listen, as this selection rewards sustained listening!

Track list:

  1. 01, V0, by Yan Jun (2011) (performance at Observatori Festival in Valencia, 2011, taken from the CD v, released on Kwanyin Records http://www.subjam.org/archives/1401)
  2. Solo at D22, by Sheng Jie (2010) (unreleased) http://sgogoj.com/
  3. 系统的二次方_三影堂现场录音, by Soviet Pop (2013) (unreleased) http://sovietpopbeijing.bandcamp.com/
  4. KG, by Li Jianhong (2012) (taken from the CD compilation Noise, released on Kwanyin Records http://www.subjam.org/archives/2193)
  5. Sedna, by VAVABOND (2011) (taken from the CD Yellow, released on Kwanyin Records http://www.subjam.org/archives/1208)
  6. 03, by Yang Tao (2010) (unreleased)
  7. 001, by Damage Blanket (2013) (unreleased, includes a sample from Breathe by Holly Herndon) https://soundcloud.com/damageblanket
  8. OP27, by jfi (2012) (unreleased) http://www.douban.com/people/jfi/

8trk.15 Guest Mix by Edward Sanderson (China Experimental) by 8trkradio on Mixcloud

UNCUT TALKS: Three Interviews with China’s sound workers

Over the past few weeks I’ve begun a series of interviews for the “Uncut Talks” sound magazine, a project initiated by the artist Ma Yongfeng of forget art. At this point I thought I would pull together the first three interviews which (coincidentally) have all been with Chinese sound artists and musicians. Future interviews will venture into other creative fields. Ma Yongfeng and the Italian curator and artist Alessandro Rolandi have also added their own interviews to the Uncut Talks site, so please take a moment and check them out, I think there is something for everyone there!

Yan Jun talks about his “Living Room Tour”:


Sheng Jie (gogo) talks about her audio-visual practice:


VAVABOND (Wei Wei) and Li Jianhong talk about improvisation:

GIG: Pangbianr Improv Meeting at School Bar 2013/04/17

VAVABOND playing as part of the Pangbianr Improv Meeting at School Bar

VAVABOND playing as part of the Pangbianr Improv Meeting at School Bar

Some new samples taken from last night’s Pangbianr Improv Meeting, a regular Wednesday night event organised by Josh Feola and Lulu Chow from Pangbianr. I only stayed for the first two soloists, Li Jianhong and VAVABOND, both of whom I have written about on this blog before, usually playing together, and whose sounds I really like. Last night it was very evident that Li Jianhong’s playing is very expertly done, a lot of control in the sounds he is manipulating out of his guitar and effects pedals. Despite being VERY LOUD, Li’s sounds carried you along in their tow, making for a series of sequences which had some feeling of progression. VAVABOND’s set, on the other hand, was far more difficult to lose oneself in. Her staccato blasts of sound, endlessly forced you to PAY ATTENTION, with no respite into a consistency which might have allowed you to sit back and relax. Previous events have seen Li and VAVABOND play together (under the names “Vagus Nerve” or “Mind Fibre”), and it’s interesting to see the similarities and disparities in their styles when they are taken separately, as here. For all their differences of technique and instrument, it was possible last night to hear how they share a sonic aesthetic, in their disjunctive ways of arranging their sounds. Good stuff.

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GIG: VAVABOND and Li Jianhong at XP, Beijing

Venturing out into the beginnings of an untimely snow-fall last night in Beijing, I made my way over to XP to catch VAVABOND and Li Jianhong play together under the moniker of Mind Fibre.

VAVABOND and Li Jianhong at XP, Beijing

VAVABOND specialises in very subtle, fizzing staccato stabs of computer-generated electronic sounds, while Li plucks at a guitar and combines its tones with noises from various DIY electro-mechanical objects sitting near him, their combined sounds being variously modulated and distorted. The style of sound produced by these two is a little bit cosmic, from the warbles of VAVABOND’s programming, and the bends and swoops of Li’s notes and tones, the overall effect harking back to early synthesised tonal music without in itself being at all anachronistic. They produced a wonderfully intense effect, each sound feeling highly articulated and organised, and never over-bearing or violent.

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