I found that in a society that is full of rapid information and resources, full of distractions from tittytainment separate people from feeling the life itself, and social constructs are swirling people into categories. But as an artist, being aware is essential, but how about being involved? My practice has been more on seeing the whole world, outside of the social constructs, not being involved in the swirl but being aware of what is happening and how I could contribute to the humanity.
This project MA, inspired by a trip realizing the breath of life, the interconnection between life and surroundings, the interpenetrations of life experiences, the liveness resonated with the present, thus waking us up to the very life we are being. Where “Giving” is one of the most important parts among my practices, everything in every life is essential, the moment we breath in we immediately feeling the life itself, being open to everything, being compassionate and loving others; dedicating the self with no ego, no takes, just giving and embracing, like Mother Nature.
For the world and people that are suffering and struggling with their affirmation of being, MA curate healing from recognizing the soundscapes in the lifestyle, the living pulses between human connections, and a strong inner heart that hold us believe and live. The inner practice is essential in humanity, especially in a world that history kept repeating itself and society turned into a mass chaos, what human has ability to improve are love and compassion, not only toward each other, but as a whole, interpenetrating with the universe. MA provides spatial breath deeply and slowly, via soundscapes walking through places with lives, and walking through an ordinary life with surroundings that we encounter, thus become more aware to the happenings, embrace what we have with the love and compassion, to see the life itself celebrates.
MA has two meaning, in Japanese describing the space of life, a pause in time, and the space in between two sounds, which I was firstly introduced by Takemitsu’s visions; And Massachusetts, where most of the pieces took place from, and it was where I found my life path and developed my inner sounds.
My vision of this project is to recognize the interconnectedness between human beings and the universe, to feel the energy and life force towards a state of oneness as a whole. By celebrating life in every moment and cultivating love and compassion for all beings, we can elevate human consciousness and promote a better world.
The instrumentation included prepared piano, bass, and drum set. One of the essential studies of the prepared piano is the treatment of the sounds, whether it is percussive or timbral. This project is the research of using timbres, applying sounds to the body of the spectrum.
Every piece has their own compositional methods and approaches related to how I explored the places where – its geography, its surrounding livings, villages and communities, and the sounds that were introduced from the ordinary life.
Most pieces have a non-specified time structure, where I was imagining a 20mins-40mins bracket, some could go more than hours, even forever circulating. Although the instructions and notations are very detailed, they are all required highly focused awareness on improvisations, whether it is on time, structures, techniques, forms, material selections, space, preparations, or the choice of sounds, etc.
The inspiration for Walden came from Thoreau's life at Walden Pond, where he had resided. As I walked and explored the pond, feeling the ground and life, I ventured through various places, all through steps and breaths. Reading Thoreau's book "Walden" expanded on the idea of self-reliance and solitude, living in the woods and breathing in natural pulses, without the constraints of social constructs. It was a complete inner world with nature.
Walden - for Henry David Thoreau
The composition of the piece was influenced by my walk around the pond and my engagement with the surrounding nature, which was reflected in the structure of the music. Walking through the trails and breathing in the natural surroundings, I felt the life forces and the pulses of nature guiding me. Upon reaching Thoreau's house and the hidden railroad behind the pond, I was overcome with strong emotions, as if the natural world was
calling out to me.
As for the structure of the piece, it primarily consists of walking patterns that lead us through Walden Pond, allowing us to feel the ground and breathe with the surrounding pulses triggered by nature. Through this experience, we come to realize that the reflection of nature celebrates every living moment. In terms of examining themes and patterns, the piece is more focused on patterns, specifically the walking patterns, that guide us through the natural world. However, these patterns ultimately give rise to the theme of celebrating and embracing the beauty of nature.
The form embodies an eternal, boundless flow that connects with its environment, moving with ease and vitality, honoring the essence of existence as portrayed in the present moment. The elements, interpenetrating the inner-self, the enduring essence represented by the campfire, and the interconnected surroundings.
Between Woods (2020)
Breathing of solitude
Respond by the resonance
of woods’ life density
Energy, Breath, Lives, Cracks
Fire, went in layers
breaking the breath
taking apart but creates pulse
The reflection sound from nature
river flows, burning woods
taken the act of breath.
Between Woods - for Toru Takemitsu
Between Woods was composed in a wooden cabin within the mountain located in Concord, the sketches and structure were based on how I walked around the villages and forest, by engaging the essential livings with ordinary pulses.
By the ocean, a bustling village thrives, surrounded by a picturesque landscape of a lighthouse, layered rocks, and sea creatures. The town is dotted with charming, small local shops, and people who coexist harmoniously with the sea. The sounds of waves crashing against the shore, winds whistling through the air, and rocks grinding against each other form a symphony of life. In the midst of it all, silence pulsates with a steady rhythm, attesting to the unity of all living beings in this vibrant, interconnected ecosystem.
Drawing inspiration from Cage's 'gamut' technique, Rockport was created with a structure that reflects my journey through the scene. The theme was introduced in a particular setting and then fragmented into smaller pieces. Performers were given materials and asked to improvise upon the materials based on how they moved along the path, selecting scenes and objects to observe and connect.
Intervallic, in between
wave force; collide
textures, movements, life
interaction, color, sounds,
freedom, living pattern, breath
On Hills - for John Cage
The composition "On Hills" combines notated elements with improvisation within specific time brackets, informed by the trail map of Blue Hills Reservation, taking into account the routes, structures, and complexities of the trails. The piano serves as a representation of Mother Nature, giving life's rhythms and observing the people on the ground, and interweaving with their stories. The bass section draws inspiration from Cage's stone sketches, utilizing stones to map out the path and structure the sounds and routes. The drum section reflects the intricacies of the trails, with fixed timbre and time brackets that awaken the walkers constantly.
Rituals on the trails, walking on hills through the path of life, with every step grounding us to the force of gravity and permeating our being with energy. The Blue Hills reservation offers a complex network of trails, each marked on a map with a color-coded indicator of its level of difficulty. As walkers explore, they engage with the landscape by touching and observing, receiving energy and healing from the environment. The place seems to connect each individual with their unique stories, giving life and embracing the forces that drive us all.
Cutler Park is an adventure that allows for deep introspection, exploring the fear of being alone on a winter wasteland during a period of overgrowth and uncertainty. A tragic image of a bleeding deer head in the wild reminds us of the impermanence of life and the constant risks we take. Beyond this inner wildness lies a hill that reveals the interconnectedness of all life and the virtues of land. At the peak, we see an evolved humanity characterized by acceptance, compassion, and a simple enjoyment of life.
Using notations as a map, Cutler Park was structured to correspond with different scenes that I encountered during my walk. Each scene had its unique character sounds, which were not intended to merge with those of the next scene, yet they were interconnected. The notations mapped out where the materials were placed and how they were to be utilized. Eventually, I arrived at a hill that offered a panoramic view of the entire landscape, developing an optimistic mindset.
Forests such as Needham Town Forest and Forest Hills are brimming with natural life, particularly bird calls that resonate with certain pulses. These sounds interconnect, create a feeling of oneness with nature, and are cause for celebration. The roots of trees and their connection to the ground serve to penetrate life forces and bring pulses to all forms of life.
The forest served as the inspiration for the graphic scores created for both the drums and prepared piano, which incorporated selective materials. These scores are meant to complement the brimming natural life of the forest. The bass part was designed to mimic the root structure of a tree, branching out and extending while still remaining connected to the surrounding environment, thus leading and triggering the surroundings.
At the conclusion of the trip, I came to a realization and recognition of the essence of life, accepting the pulses of human existence and the surrounding environment in and around Boston, Massachusetts. I took in the lifestyle that brimmed with enjoyment and the presence of life.
The inspiration for the notation used in MA was drawn from the ancient notation “jianzi pu” for guqin, traditional Chinese instrument. Which involved gestural symbols instructing playing certain intervals a specific number of times on specific parts of the instrument, as well as using specific techniques on designated registers with numerical repetition, etc. MA's notation, on the other hand, primarily employs symbols to represent techniques, while also indicating register range, ways of playing (e.g. length, repetition), dynamic range, energy map, density, and any notes for extended usage.
By incorporating improvisation into the notation while still providing specific sound instructions, I felt more at ease creating the sounds that I had envisioned. This personalized approach to my notation method allowed me to communicate my musical outputs more clearly. Moreover, culturally, a single symbol or character can carry multiple meanings that vary depending on time, culture, context, people, and situations. This leaves room for interactive communication and the exchange of ideas.
- Shinya Lin