Transplantation

2018

Bamboo, metal, Teensy, haptic sensor

Artist and performer: Mengtai Zhang

Composer: Lemon Guo

“Transplantation” is an innovated traditional instrument that graft clarinet components (Boehm System) into Xiao (Chinese vertical flute), combined with Teensy and sensors (haptics and force). This combination allows Xiao to work as a controller and interface, sharing both operating methodologies of clarinet and Xiao. The modern Xiao has eight tone holes (the pre-20th century models have six), adapted for the Western music system and ensemble performance. Xiao relies on the resonance of the breathing, which controls tone and pitch. Teensy primarily works as an oscillator and FFT analyzer, which through a microphone inside the flute analyzes the overtone series and sonifies the FFT data in an algorithmically mediated way. This modification is not aimed to expand the register of the instrument, but to explore a new approach of control and interaction.

 

The work engages with the emotional, ethnographical, and political charge of material and place. Specifically, the piece explores music reconstruction and displacement in relation to a historical movement during postwar China (After 1949). Informed by personal experience, this work raises questions of systems of dissemination and cultural appropriation. Due to the call from the Chinese government, the idea of westernization while adhering to the national essence has caused an epistemic transformation of the musical practice, and lead to a movement of reconstructing folk instruments and music system, accommodating symphonic demands. Afterwards, this movement caused serious controversy and criticism. Although the war (organized massacre) has come to a temporary end, the combats on the cultural recognition and political ideology have never stopped. This composition is inspired by such historical and political issues, combined with acoustic Xiao, digital signal processing and sample triggering in Teensy, and expressing an imagination on the post-war cultural reconstruction. Overall, this work mirrors the wider idea of postcolonial identity, but explodes the expectations of a standardized sense of oriental aesthetics.

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