Pieces of Eight – 八音 (2018) documents the process of making a music performance. Eight teams of musicians and soundscape recordists venture to eight locations around Hong Kong. They engage with the acoustic environment, people, animals, and a composed score of music by SOUNDISLANDS. Underlining the concept of Pieces of Eight – 八音 is the ancient Chinese way of thinking about tones or sounds known as the bayin (八音), which are essentially eight categories of material (leather/hide, clay, metal, stone, gourd, wood, silk, and bamboo). The tones and materials are also linked to the eight cardinal directions on a compass. This led us (Soundislands) to conceive of placing the musicians at eight locations around a central point, which is ArtisTree, and at different distances from it, some quite far away. Together with William Lane, we chose the instrumentation with reference to the sonic qualities of bayin 八音: xiào, shéng, gúqin, saxophone, percussion instruments (bells, gongs, stones etc), violin, viola, and double bass. In parallel, the concept of bayin 八音 informed ESKYIU’s the design of the percussion instruments and selection of eight locations that were metaphorically connected with each of the materials. The technical matters serve the core musical idea of listening to and playing with the acoustic environment. In collaborating with HKNME, our focus is on how each musician adapts their performance of the composed material to the soundscape they hear at a specific location - on a nature trail, at a busy commuter point, near a construction site, on a boat in the harbour - by imitating and dialoguing with people’s voices, animals, and other sound sources.
Location recordings by Soundislands and collaborators, AV post-production by PerMagnus Lindborg.