Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: atsuhiro ito, on the string, the analog girl, Zai Kuning
On the String
4 Jun 2010 / Esplanade Theatre Studio
Atsuhiro ft. The Analog Girl & Zai Kuning
5 Jun 2010 / Supper Club
String Theory, depending on who you ask, can be a revolutionary way of thinking about the world, or a pompous piece of quasi-science. At its simplest, it posits that all particles in the universe (even the tiniest, tiniest ones) are made of vibrating strings and membranes of energy. At its most complex, it is a unifying theory of quantum physics and general relativity; involving bosons, fremions and ‘world-sheets’; with implications for parallel universes and the like. Yes, whatever.
On the String is an unusual production – part installation, part concert. Unfolding over nine movements in just under an hour, it’s an emotive distillation of String Theory, taking the audience through the imaginary sounds of smaller and smaller particles, until they arrive at the primordial strings themselves. The sounds are generated through two room-sized string sculptures: the “corridor” and the “canopy”. The first is a tent-like frame with strings of different material stretched over it, played by scraping and plucking; the second is a tall pole tethered to the ground by thin rubber strips, played like a yacht’s mast, with the artist holding it and leaning this way and that. The sounds generated are fed through computers, altered and emitted through an array of speakers surrounding the room. The experience is at once intimate (the audience sits in a U-shape around the sculptures in the small Esplanade Theatre Studio) and cavernous, with thunderous amplification and searing, soaring notes. Other conventional string instruments such as the pipa, harpsichord and violin provide embellishments at various junctures.
Admittedly, in attempting to give us a glimpse of the unknowable, On the String is a romantic notion, much in the same way that contemplating the infinite universe is romantic. Indeed, composer / director / performer Joyce Beetuan Koh played the string sculptures with the awe and reverence that should come naturally from apprehending the very stuff that everything is made from (i.e. strings). But some of the production’s beauty is lost in its over-intellectualisation. One almost gets the feeling that the team behind On the String spent too many days holed up in a basement preparing for its debut. Koh’s programme notes, while lovingly crafted, are voluminous and highly technical. The post-show dialogue revealed much of the thinking behind the elaborate setup – which was all but lost on most of the audience. Apparently, the strings on the canopy were carefully tuned to achieve all the harmonics of G – the harmonics representing various elemental particles, thereby exploring the relationship between music and quantum physics, and so on. A little fancy considering that an audience member was unsure if the sounds were coming from the canopy, or if the entire performance was mimed to pre-recorded, computer-generated noise.
So that’s On the String.
And then there is Atsuhiro Ito. In stark contrast to Koh’s subtatomic romanticism, Ito’s performance is all street cred, no explanations and no apologies. His weapon of choice is a regular fluorescent light fitted with an electromagnetic pickup (like those on electric guitars), played by applying different voltages with a pedal. The sounds created – essentially static hums and hisses – are distorted and amplified, creating dense, bass-heavy sawbuzz noises. Despite the lack of visible calibration on the Optron – as Ito calls it – he wields it with great skill, controlling its bursts of noise with precision, alternately coaxing dark squelches and buzzes. All this he does with minimal theatricality, gazing downwards as he works his array of pedals, allowing the Optron to light his grim visage (which, with its deep lines, looks great when lit from below). With an instrument like the Optron, it’s so tempting to go right into lightsaber comedy, but Ito steers well clear of that.
Ito’s collaboration with The Analog Girl was a sensible one – his intense, low-end rhythms sat well with her stylish, linear electronica. Ito’s collaboration with multi-faceted artist Zai Kuning was a little more inspired, since you can never be sure what Zai’s going to pull out of the hat. Their first number together was mesmerising – a long, sparse, mellow, fingerpicked semi-acoustic guitar piece with mantra-like vocals from Zai. Applying the Optron here would seem like stapling paper with a sledgehammer, but Ito used the lightest of touches, adding low rhythmic blips while bobbing away serenely. The Analog Girl rejoined them for the closing set, resulting in more cacophonous hard electro. You know you’re in for something when a club passes out earplugs before a gig, and the strange bedfellows of Zai, Ito and The Analog Girl certainly delivered on that front.
Hey, there’s a reading club coming up!
The Flying Inkpot Theatre and Dance is partnering the Substation to bring you a fortnightly series of “book club” sessions from July to November 2010 where instead of novels, the group will come together to discuss scripts by local playwrights.
This will be a safe, friendly space for anyone to come …and share their views about a particular work, whether they are a regular theatre-goer or new to the theatre scene.
For more information, check out the Open Roads website here: http://www.readingsingaporetheatre.blogspot.com/
Emily of Emerald Hill by Stella Kon
The first session of OPEN ROADS: READING SINGAPORE THEATRE on Saturday 10 July 2010 will look at Stella Kon’s classic one-woman play Emily of Emerald Hill which was produced as recently as June 2010 as part of the Singapore Arts Festival.
Since 1985 when the play won Kon her third National Playwriting Competition award, Emily of Emerald Hill has been staged around the world – Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Hong Kong, Scotland, the United States, etc. – and the role of Emily have been played by a host of women (Leow Puay Tin, Margaret Chan, Pearlly Chua, Neo Swee Lin) and at least one man (Ivan Heng).
Intimate love is one of those universal experiences that artists find themselves constantly drawing upon for the content of their work. Throughout history, we have had the creation of numerous paintings and sculptures, novels and plays, songs and dances which display and dissect the dynamics of love between two (or more) individuals in its many-splendoured glory and its dissolution. By exploring the theme of the failure of love, Meg Stuart and Philipp Gehmacher’s Maybe Forever falls squarely within the broad ranks of works generated upon this ubiquitous concern, drawing upon contemporary idioms of bodily movement, word, image and sound to express the futile struggle two people are caught up in when a relationship breaks down. While Maybe Forever is competent and compelling for the most of the performance (especially in the first half), it is a piece situated between two positions I am unable to reconcile: it either portrays failed love in gestures which are too obvious, or has nuances which are too subtle to effectively convey the impact of a very personal and intense experience.
Hmm, I’d better publicise this, even if it’s just so people know what to wear. Basically, it’s red/yellow at Central Promontory, blue/green at Marina Barrage.
The closing event of the Singapore Arts Festival will be a massive line dance project that will enable Singaporeans from all walks to engage in art making and express themselves!
This event will bring together all the line dance community groups in Singapore and pair them with dance/film makers. The resulting dance/film project will be showcased in dance/film series of Singapore Arts Festival 2011.
So put on your dancing shoes! Join us and be part of the Singapore Arts Festival.
THIS IS A FREE EVENT!
EARLY-BIRD GOODIE BAGS!
First 200 that arrive at each venue will receive an early-bird goodie bag (worth over $100) which includes a limited edition Singapore Arts Festival EZ-Link card!
All participants will get a goodie bag worth $20.
WHERE IS THIS HAPPENING?
Marina Barrage and Central Promontory!
6-9pm on 13 June Sunday!
Central Promontory will feature Country Line Dance.
(Please come dressed in shades of Red or Yellow in support of the passion and happiness of dancing in the arts!)
Marina Barrage will feature Line Dance.
(Please come dressed in shades Blue or Green in support of the clean water, clear air movement! )
HOW TO GET THERE?
The public is encouraged to take public transport to either event.
Located just beside the new NTUC Building on 1 Raffles Quay
Nearest MRT is Raffles Place MRT, of walkable distance.
For those who drive, you can park at:
NTUC Centre (Open till 11pm)
Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1
One Raffles Quay
Regular Shuttle buses will be provided from
Marina Bay MRT and Tanjong Pagar MRT
from 5.30pm to 6.30pm and 9pm to 10pm, every 10 minutes.
Parking is available at Marina Barrage.
WHAT ARE WE DANCING TO? HOW TO DANCE?
Dance-List for Central Promontory:
Dance-List for Marina Barrage:
To learn how to do the moves, check out
Type in the dance title and the steps and videos will appear for you to learn!
SO COME AND JOIN US!
This event has no age restrictions whatsover!
There will be songs catering to different likings!
It’s just gonna be lots of fun!
See you there!
Filed under: Uncategorized
I’m in attendance at Tampines Regional Library.
There’s five librarians/presenters in charge.
How many of us are in the audience? Four.
That was pretty interesting in the end. Didn’t think it’d be given the composition of the audience: one Indian national banker, one retired Singapore housewife, one British academic and me.
The first two guys hadn’t seen ANYTHING in the Arts Fest; they just heard the announcement in the library. Amanda (the academic) and me; we’d seen EVERYTHING. We seemed to be heading pretty directly for a conversational impasse.
But that didn’t happen. Sure, I stewed a little when Sachin (banker) made suggestions, given that he’d seen nothing and evidently couldn’t be bothered to make time for the shows despite having seen the Festival bus stop ads. Sure, he said he was too busy for arts all month. But evidently his weekends are free enough to spend 90 minutes chatting to a bunch of people he doesn’t know about vague impressions of things based on the fact that he walked into free live shows at the Esplanade, TWICE.
But Anne, the housewife, she had a lot to say, once she got over her shyness. She pointed out that retired people have the most free time and are thus the best possible audiences – why hadn’t our outreach to them been better? They’re organised in community centre clubs and profess an interest in the arts which they previously hadn’t had the licence to develop. (And meanwhile, the Fest is investing in creating kids’ consultation panels, because Singapore has SOOOO many kids being born…)
I also learned lots from Jeffrey Tan, outreach manager at the Festival: it seems that this current festival involved a rollout of fiftyish different programmes to encourage greater attendance from non-regular artsgoers: workshops and talks where people from all walks of life get together, and how garang the volunteers are: they ownself take the Victoria Theatre tours and translate them into Mandarin and Malay and (on request) sign language. Also online festival packs and Youtube interviews which no-one has noticed.
And the reason behind the Inkpot ticket cutbacks: there was an all-round cutback on complimentary tickets, based on the premise that the arts are/is important and people ought to be willing to pay for it/them. (Copy editor, help me out!)
There’ll be another talk on 26 June about what the next Fest will entail. Let’s see if the blog survives till then.