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August 25, 2017

At the bottom of everything

Hong Kong sound artist Gaybird brings two works to Adelaide for OzAsia, and both challenge us to differentiate between the fundamental and frivolous in our lives.

  • Words: Farrin Foster

Ever since he was a teenager, Hong Kong sound artist Gaybird has been attempting to redefine music.

“At the beginning I just wanted to make music – I wanted to be a composer, I wanted to be a musician,” he says. “I studied electronic music because I like to control everything.”


Music in Anticlockwise will be performed at Nexus Arts on Friday, October 6 and Home will be exhibited on the Goodman Lawns at the University of Adelaide, September 27 – October 8.

That impulse for control is tied to Gaybird’s desire to push the audience to engage more deeply with music – something he seeks to achieve by experimenting with the creation of new instruments and media as he develops each sonic performance work.

When CityMag visits his Hong Kong studio, an array of these devices are piled on shelves along the walls.

“I’m not satisfied with the performance of a conventional music creation,” says Gaybird. “I think in this era, people won’t just close their eyes and listen to music.

“Somehow you need to have other media to influence people to perceive the music. And because of this concept, I think as a composer we should create some new things for music.

“Basically my aim is finding a new way to present music, and the most easy and direct way to do that is creating new instruments. I think as a statement, it makes sense – it’s new instruments for new music.”

In his latest composition, which was commissioned by OzAsia, Gaybird is juxtaposing his futuristic musical stylings with the more classical (and yet still experimental) approach of the Zephyr Quartet.

Taking the form of a musical journey backward through time, Gaybird says Music in Anticlockwise will pose questions about the place of technology in our lives.

“I want to remind people what is the fundamental thing,” he says. “Sometimes we step forward a lot and change a lot and then somehow if you step backward you can see more what you really need.

“So that idea is – going from future elements and then back to the past – travelling all the way back to the first string quartet in the history, and then through this progress I can express this concept.”

A second work for OzAsia – this time entitled Home – explores similar themes.

A visual concept mock-up of the Home installation

Home is a visual and sound installation that Gaybird will place on the Goodman Lawns at the University of Adelaide. It consists of multiple small sculptures formed into a literal interpretation of the Chinese character for home.

“The structure of the character is very simple – it’s just  a rooftop with a pig under the rooftop,” says Gaybird. “This is the ancient Chines concept of home – it’s simple, the pig is because it’s for food, and then you have a roof and then that’s home.

“This concept helps us to ask what our basic needs are. Do we really need a lot in our home? And I also think that the modern people ask for more complicated things for home or family. But for me, home is very simple – just some food and rooftop, this is home.”

As well as being a further exploration of themes Gaybird often finds himself pre-occupied by, Home represents an evolution of his practice as an artist.

This will be his first foray into presenting visual- heavy, non-performative art – a new direction he believes will allow him to explore ideas differently.

“For Home, I start from research, I start from information, rather than from sound,” says Gaybird, “and because that is a different process I create different work. So I think that is also a good start for my evolution.”

Adelaide will be playing host to the very start of this artist’s evolution, and in the process we’ll also be questioning whether we’re pushing our own evolution a little too fast.

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