Wang Fu-jui X HH – Scattered between Experimental Sound and Electronic Music
Wang Fu-jui (from left), Yao Chung-han and Yeh Ting-hao are three “can’t-miss” figures in Taiwan’s sound-making circle.
Wang Fu-jui, Yao Chung-han and Yeh Ting-hao are three “can’t-miss” names in Taiwan’s sound-making circle. Wang is considered the island’s trailblazer in noise movement. Creating across various sound genres, Wang has developed his unique flavor of sound. His works can be very analog or highly digital. To him, peer learning (from other artists), methodology and tools are not of paramount importance. What matters to him is the constant pursuit of new possibilities in sound-making.
Following the footsteps of their predecessors, Yao and Yeh founded Lacking Sound Fest, which is a permanent sound performance platform that takes up the torch of enriching Taiwan’s sound art (note 1). In recent years, the two artists formed HH with the aim of suiting both refined and popular tastes in an unconventional fashion – the mixture of experimental sound and electronic music, when performed live, penetrates your body; that is when both refined and popular audiences find it impossible to escape.
Q: How did each of you embark on the journey of sound-making?
Wang: In the beginning, I was mostly into noise. At that time, some of the electronic music was quite experimental. I was influenced by both genres. Some people think my works are very electronic. But actually, they are different from dance music. What I create is more of experimental electronic music, or what I call “aesthetics by mistake”.
In 1993, I founded NOISE, Taiwan’s first magazine and brand dedicated to experimental music. Because of that, I began having some international connections. I went to San Francisco and quickly involved myself in the local circle of experimental music. Learning bit by bit, I even bought electronic pianos and effects units from second-hand markets and started creating. I returned to Taiwan in 1997. In 1998, Atau Tanaka came to Taiwan to perform and talked about Max/MSP at a seminar. That was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned the software by myself and shifted my focus to computer-based creation. Since I knew how to use Max, I was later invited to teach at Taipei National University of the Arts.
Perhaps my works still carry a personal style, but actually, I don’t really limit myself [to showing personal style in art]. It all depends on the thoughts I have at the moment of creating. To me, noise represents a free attitude and may not just be one type of sound. That spirit is more important to me.
Founded in 1993 by Wang Fu-jui, the NOISE magazine and brand put Taiwan on the global map of noise art for the first time. Photo credit: Lu Yi, Soundwatch Studio.
Yao (as HH member): I studied interior design in college. It was a field that often deals with materials. As a student, I was also interested in sound and video. My art teacher told us to think of them as materials. That’s when I began making installations featuring the interaction between sound and light. After seeing several sound performances, I started creating sound art in graduate school. Later, as I was looking for more special sounds, I chose fluorescent lamps. I have used them in installations and performances to this date.
In 2008, I created a fluorescent-lamp installation called Scattered Coordinates for my graduation project. After several exhibitions by invitation, I was finally able to adjust it to a perfect state that creates the feeling of the body being completely wrapped up by light. Another performance piece is called LLSP, which uses laser to control fluorescent lamps. Later, I launched On Site, Lacking Sound Fest, etc. and began thinking about sound art as a curator.
In 2013, Yeh Ting-hao and I formed HH. We wanted to create sound visualization based on electronic dance music while combining with our past sound pieces. That experience broadened my imagination for sound and led to several new works last year. As a result, LLSP was changed to LLAP, adding LED on tope of laser. We made sound move along noises and electronic rhythms.
Yeh (as HH member): I studied computer animation in college and loved seeing music bands perform. I learned about post-rock, which is a type of music that encourages unconventional use of instruments. Since I was interested in performance, I began to wonder what I would do with those instruments. Some bands used computers during live performances. They even used joysticks to go with video. That really intrigued me. So for my graduate studies, I chose Taipei National University of the Arts for the sake of its resources. I learned to create sound and video with computer programs.
Later, I became interested in using wearable devices to generate sound and control video. In a documentary, I saw the world’s first electronic instrument, theremin, which detects hand movement by capturing the user’s magnetic field and changes pitch and volume accordingly. Playing theremin doesn’t require any physical contact. That was a shocking discovery for me. I began thinking about how to connect voice and video through the use of the body.
A more concrete result was Craftweak at TranSonic 2009. I put on some sensors and performed with them. In the same year, I started working with YiLab. In Loop Me, I used programmed and pre-recorded videos. I detected sound closely and fed it back to videos. I digested everything I’d learned and put it into practice. That was the starting point for HH.
Craftweak, Yeh Ting-hao. Photo credit: Yeh Ting-hao.
Loop Me, YiLab. Photo credit: YiLab.
Q: Why did you create HH? What does it address?
Yao: As a college student, I loved electronic music. But the level of energy of electronic music is not easily attainable through fluorescent installations. Perhaps that shows every art form has its limits. The penetrating energy of electronic music is what I’m fond of. In 2013, I was planning to launch a long-term project for electronic music. That’s when I invited Yeh to come aboard. So we created HH.
Yeh: Before HH, each of us created by taking inspirations from the sounds we heard; sounds that people don’t usually hear. That was the basis of our thinking. Now, since we want to create something with more rhythm, it doesn’t have to be pure electronic music. So we try to combine experimental sound, which we are good at. An artist’s traits that we both like are: He (or she) can be very noisy, very pleasant to the ear, very extreme and chaotic or very rhythmic. That’s what HH challenges itself to – suiting both refined and popular tastes.
Syn-Infection, HH. Photo by Etang Chen, PhotoCredit: HH.
Q: You were both taught by Wang Fu-jui. When you see the works created by this sound art pioneer of Taiwan, which part touches you the most?
Yao: When I first saw Wang spinning his head while performing noise art (Blinding Light, Dumbing Sound, 2006), I genuinely felt the power of sound performance. It is as if he takes you to a journey, makes a twist half way, and the audience is taken to a whole new place by the move of his body. From that particular show, I learned that you need to get your programs ready beforehand, so that you don’t need to change the parameters during the performance. You need to let your body feel the moment, allowing your mind and body to capture what is happening.
Yeh: The part of the performance that impressed me the most was the feeling of being penetrated by sound, and the feeling that sound seemed to be moving around me. I was thrilled and shocked to learn what it felt like to be “wrapped up”.
Q: The sense of “scattering” described by HH is also demonstrated remarkably in Hyper Transmission. How did you achieve that, Mr. Wang?
Wang: What’s special about Hyper Transmission is that it uses directional speakers. It is a type of speakers seen in sound installations but rarely used in actual performances. I equipped the speakers with power units. Directional speakers help display the contour of sound and make it sharper. As I intentionally chose certain frequencies, the audience feels that the sound scratches past their ears and is constantly moving. It feels more multi-directional than stereo. The vision of sound scattered in the air is very special (note 2).
Hyper Transmission, Wang Fu-jui. Photo Credit: Lu Yi, Soundwatch Studio.
Q: Tell us about Syn-Infection, HH’s upcoming performance in Australia.
Yeh: “Synchronization” is a feature of new media. Exhibitions and performances come with all kinds of synchronized settings. When we perform, our feelings can also synchronize with the audience’s feelings. It’s like we “infect” them; hence the name, Syn-Infection. We did quite a lot experiments with sound and video. Take video, the part that I am in charge of, for example: From what I’ve seen in other works, I know that light can greatly affect the sensations of the body; light is actually the basic component of video. Coming back to our performance: I want to reduce video to light, and let it merge closely with sound so that it can be as penetrating as sound.
Yao: I deal with the music part of the performance. Since our premiere in 2014, we’ve gradually come to realize what combination or configuration of sounds creates a better sense of “being present”. The performance in Australia will come with more experimental settings. We incorporate some ritual-like experiences in the performance. The energy of the body rides on the change of rhythm in video and music, and continues to extend and expand. I think body is one of the realist things. It can be very focused, immersive and unique. We use new media as a tool to affect everyone with our message in a more profound way.
Wang: I’ve seen HH perform several times. I think the way they handle sound and visual presentation is quite mature. Even real dance music may not achieve the same effect. They bring the audience to a state of “being infected”, as we just said. In that regard, they’re quite successful. I care about “the sense of body” as much as they do. When I immerse myself in the performance, my body develops some sort of unpredictability. I would leave everything to intuition. What I convey is my own emotional devotion. That genuineness touches the audience and invites them to step into the flows of sound and unique ambiences we create.
Syn-Infection, HH. Photo by Tsai Hsin-Yi, Photo Credit: HH.
Q: You have recently formed a new group called XXXXX. What does it plan to do?
Wang: Last year, we were commissioned to do an outdoor performance. We were very ambitious. Instead of using just sound, we wanted to add installations that could interact with sound. And we didn’t want to limit ourselves to the materials that were readily available. So we looked for other possibilities. In the end, we chose LED strips.
Yeh: LED is a material used by many artists. We tried to be different. We designed a set of power units. With that, we created an audio-visual performance consisting of light components and featuring real-time interaction between sound and video. Those movable LED strips create an interesting sense of perceptual alterations. Combined with sound, they construct a new type of language. In the developing process, we accidentally found out that those installations could be arranged in a lot of X patterns. Since there were five of us, we named the group XXXXX.
Wang: After that performance, we saw many other possibilities. We took it to the next level. While developing, we considered the adaptability of the project in different environments. We thought about taking it to the mountains to create a real “light forest”. To me, that’s what art is all about. It inspires people to thing imaginatively. That’s what is most exciting.
Film- Wang Liang ＋ Chen Yen Chi / Editing- Wang Liang
Note 1: For the iconic sound events in which Wang Fu-jui participated and Lacking Sound Fest, founded by Yao Chun-han and Yeh Ting-hao, please refer to Lay Hsu-guang’s “On the Scene of Taiwan’s Digital Sound Art Performance – Hybrids, Crossbreeds and Mutations”.
Note 2: The acoustic concept involving the use of directional speakers is also seen in Off the Map, created by Wang Fu-jui and choreographer Su Wen-Chi under YiLab.
► About Artists
Wang Fujui is an artist and curator specializing in sound art and interactive art, whose work has played a key role in establishing sound as a new artistic genre in Taiwan. He founded NOISE, the first experimental sound label in Taiwan, launched the BIAS International Sound Art Exhibition and Sound Art Prize for the Digital Art Awards Taipei. The head of TransSonic Lab at the Center for Art and Technology of the TNUA since 2010, he has curated numerous exhibitions and festivals such as TransSonic Sound Art Festival and three editions of Digital Art Festival Taipei.
HH Taipei was established in 2013 by sound artists, Yao Chung-Han and Yeh Ting-Hao . They collaborated as an Audio-Visual duo, exploring the possibilities of transforming experimental noises into electronic music. They use strong beats as main feature of their composition, reorganize noises, and hybridize them into something between sound art and electronic music. They also use volume data to drive the transformation of images real-time and attempt a special spatial perception by visual means, resulting changes and complements between different senses.