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Samson Young, “Pulse Radio II” (image via Residency Unlimited)

This month, sound art in New York continues to bloom in various locations throughout the city. First up was “Soundings: A Contemporary Score” at MOMA, then came Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “Voice Tunnel.”  Residency Unlimited, which holds residencies for international artists, jumped into the fray by hosting the sound art section of the three part inToAsia: Time-based Art Festival 2013 curated by inCube Arts and featuring artists from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The works performed at Residency Unlimited’s church studio in Carroll Gardens spanned noise, sound, classical, and interactive aspects of the overall spectrum of sound art.

The PADA collective from Taiwan (comprising Chiang Chien-Hsin and Liao Chien-Chiao) paired reworked videos to a soundscape combining natural elements like rain and wind. Using a synthesizer knob controlled deck they produced eerie creaks and groans. The squealing alarms and sirens in their piece mingled strangely with the real-time alarms and sirens whizzing down Court Street. At other moments, elements of bagpipes gone wild or the trumpeting of a particularly incensed herd of pachyderms accompanied visuals invoking travel and velocity that synched up and veered off from any strict editorial parity. The doppleganger effect was an off kilter-tension lacking a sense of repose.

Sampson Young from Hong Kong began “Pulse Radio II – Homage to Nicolas Collins (Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1),” with a simple premise, the lashing tick-tock of his own heartbeat, amplified through a cardiac monitor strapped underneath his shirt. Indicated by a simple LED light, a pulsing luminescence was the metronome of his vitality. Young’s classical training was evident as he mixed electronic music with various samplings culled from the history of classical music, spiced with a strong undercurrent of microtonal arpeggios. During the presentation he jumped up from his seat to execute a series of energetic squats, thereby raising his heart rate, which in turn raised the beat of his bionic metronome. To conclude his études he picked up a toy accordion, playing a low tech serenade against the background of his high tech material.

Clockwise from left: Sampson Young performs “Pulse Radio II – Homage to Nicolas Collins (Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1)”; “TranSonic201” by Wang Fujui; PADA collective Chiang Chien-Hsin & Liao Chien-Chiao (photographs by the author for Hyperallergic)

“TranSonic201” by Wang Fujui was a robust but overly enthusiastic denouement of high frequency sounds with droll cameo appearances by a number of flat faced rotating music speakers. What began as a whimsical robotic jousting turned into an ear splitting exploration of volume that left audience members in the front rows covering their ears and cowering down on their knees to escape the heightened volume. It was hard to tell if this was an exploration of “loud sound” in the vein of what was expored by Joseph Nechvatal in his “Immersion Into Noise” projects, or just an oversight by a young composer intent on experimenting with aspects of his oeuvre.

Lin Chi-Wei — originally from Taiwan but now residing in Beijing — is the author of the well-regarded book “Beyond Sound Art.” A seminal figure in the Taiwanese “Zero and Sound Liberation Organization” (Z.L.O.S.), he recently performed at the Tate Modern’s underground center “The Tank.” His low tech, audience-engaging reading of Chinese words both in their native language and their phonetic renderings through Anglicized Pinyin was the final piece in the evening’s presentations. Chi-Wei’s ability to meld electronic music with human activity and interactivity was a humbling reminder of the social, participatory origins of sound.

MicroCities”, inToAsia: Time-based Art Festival 2013 took place at Residency Unlimited (360 Court Street, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn) on August 9th.

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Ellen Pearlman

Ellen Pearlman is a writer and new media artist who lives between New York and Asia, where she is a PhD candidate at the School of Creative Media, Hong Kong City University.