Upcoming Residency in China: some pre-departure thoughts…

February 7th, 2012

I know I promised that that my next blog would be about my European motorcycle trip during September 2011 – it’s coming soon, though…


As the leaving date of February 23rd grows ever-nearer, the usual feelings of excitement, apprehension and uncertainty have surfaced (as they often do at the initial stages of the undertaking of a substantial project). I think my fear lies somewhere between not really feeling that comfortable as a composer of fully-scored music and feeling most comfortable trusting in my intuition as an improviser – letting other people/places/extraneous circumstances help shape the music. I’m hoping to meet many musicians that I can learn from during my stay and, with any luck, collaborate to produce music that has a personal resonance for the people of Xiamen. My current plan is to document (via audio/video) the stories of those living in Xiamen and Gulangyu Island (AKA “Piano Island”)

– looking at how and what role music has played in their lives, weaving these accounts into a musical tapestry of some kind. This may of course change but for now it’s something to get me going. After many years of performing solo concerts with the aid of a sampler and all kinds of sampled speech and music from a wide spectrum of influence, this project will give me a chance to draw on this experience – although this time moving more towards storytelling than that of abrupt musical disjunction.

As you will have seen, Gulangyu has the epithet of “Piano Island”, supposedly due to the many homes possessing an old joanna of some kind. Gulangyu is also host to Mr.Yu Youyi’s collection of pianos at China’s largest piano museum – (not to mention the world’s largest Organ museum, too…)!


Hopefully I’ll get to use/document some of the more elderly, matured pianos around the city and on Gulangyu – in the spirit of the 2009 project Songs from a Lost Piano as part of the project BUT who knows, maybe Xiamen has other things in store??!! I’m planning to do most of my journeying in and around the city by bicycle (my most favoured means of A-B transportation – although bicycles are not allowed on Gulangyu Island!) and will be staying Xiamen itself for the duration of the residency.


I’ll be endeavouring to keep a video/written diary of events as they unfold so do stay tuned for more updates as the project progresses throughout March into early April.

Alongside these explorations I’ll also be teaming up with the Art College of Xiamen University, who are also partners in the residency programme, to meet with other faculty members and students who may be interested in the project as well as delivering a lecture/demonstration or two! So, all in all I’m looking forward very much to immersing myself within a completely different culture and feel amazed to have been given the opportunity of making music within the framework of another culture for six weeks…

This residency was made possible thanks to the PRS for Music Foundation, The British Council and Art College of Xiamen University.