Concert: Sound Symposium XVIII, July 13, 2016

By Jing Xia

5-soundsymposium2016-89740-lowresI knew, from the very beginning, from the first syllable resonating in the air, from the first image coming into view, that I fell in love with it.

I have watched many voice performances, I buy music videos often and I am quite familiar with digital audio. However, I thought I knew nothing about these four things when I sat in the audience that night: voice, video, electronics, and imagery. Mary Jane Lamond, Laurel Macdonald (voice) as well as Philip Strong (sound mixing) converge them in such a beautiful way, and I can’t find a suitable word to describe how beautiful it was.

Lamond and Macdonald reimagined and reset some traditional Canadian folk songs collected by Helen Creighton. By using electronic sounds and effects, they made songs rich, continuous and intuitive. There were three elements to the performance: the video with electronic sound and the voice with live recording and looping. Lamond’s and Macdonald’s voices were realistic sounds in that room and I could feel it through the vibrating air, parting lips, and even the emotional eyes. The electronic sound track and the video were like something beyond the real. Rigid video often influences the way audiences think, especially during a feeling process of musical performance – in this case the video images gave me a way of exploring and enjoying the music.

Ethnomusicologist Thomas Turino says that there is a liminal flow experience of listening, in which the subjectivities of audience members are suspended. My thoughts suspended when I listened to those voices. The most impressive thing was a catchy song that is still hovering in my mind: When I wake in the morning, I go to my window. I take a look at the place that I know… There were some colorful images: fruits, kaleidoscope, and a petticoat. I thought about my hometown, then my parents, then my childhood. I eyes teared up and I was totally moved. I felt myself in a liminal word and I watched everything from a high position. I enjoyed everything in that world and forgot where I was.

What was the rest of the audience doing when I went into my special world? The gentleman who sat beside me kept closing his eyes after the end of  performances. I stared at him for a while: What was he doing? Did he go into another imaginary world? Dylan Robinson uses the words “feeling reconciliation” to describe the process of resonance between the music and the audience. Brian Massumi notes that “(there is an) invisible glue that holds the world together”. When I sat in the hall, I noticed a contradiction. On the one hand, there were various aspects existing differently in the space and time: singer, sound designer, lighting controller, camera holder, technicians, audience, projector, screen and speakers etc. Each of us has a role and each of our thoughts are distinct throughout the performance. These different aspects complicate space and time. On the other hand, all theses aspects coexist in the limited space and specific time. They share the same sound and space, and spend the same time flow. There were also some junctions crossing the lines of human thoughts. Everything blended with the music and the music dominated the process.

This concert made me think of a beautiful paragraph and I really want to share it with you:

The musical work, which is a myth coded in sounds instead of words, offers an interpretive grid, a matrix of relationships which filters and organizes lived experience, acts as a substitute for it, and provides the comforting illusion that contradictions can be overcome and difficulties resolved.

—Claude Lévi-Strauss, “Structuralism and Myth”