Taiwan Blog Post #3

//posted on january 3, 2022


it’s not often that you get to tune-in to the same frequency of the universe. when you do, it sounds like this:
-resting your head against the bus window on the ride home, and the sound of the low-rumbling happens to be in the same key as the song you’re listening to on your headphones
-buying vegetables from the same grannie at the market every weekend, and one day meeting her 100-year-old friend (who had no teeth, as far as i could tell, but hardly looked a day over 80. she spoke fluidly and enthusiastically in hokkien, so i couldn’t understand what she was saying, but my grannie-veggie-dealer translated for me)
-playing dance dance revolution in a noisy arcade on a friday afternoon
-watching the clouds go by through your window
-eating every flavor of ice cream in one go
-lying on your back in the park while staring at the undersides of trees blowing with the wind

tuning-in to the universe is remembering how easy it is to fall in love with life, every single day

Taiwan Blog Post #2


//posted on december 12, 2021

A eulogy for a cat named Frisky:
a loving and playful brother. Unnamed by my uncle, I called him Frisky because he was always getting into trouble.
Like the one time when we swatted him away from the table at lunch, so he settled instead for fish bones and an oily napkin that he stole from the trash bin.
Or when he mysteriously showed up one morning, limping, with a patch of fur missing from his hind leg. I had to cradle him as my uncle dripped medicine on his wound.
Remembering the grasshopper turned plaything, crunch crunch crunched in between Frisky’s brutal-but-somehow-tender teeth, and the cockroach upturned and unmoving, and the terrified little mouse in the bathroom.
Not understanding how someone could hit a cat and drive off without stopping to tell anyone—it was the customers who frequent our little convenience store who let my uncle know what had happened. After all, they are the ones who scratched his chin as they came and went, saying “oh look at this one. He looks so much like his brother.”
Not yet a year old, he’ll miss out on many more years of mischief.
He is survived by his brother, Pizza.
RIP Frisky

Taiwan Blog Post #1


//posted on December 1, 2021

Write up—Guandu Nature Park Art Festival, Workshop with Laila Fan on 11/20/2021 at 9:00am

 

On an overcast, humid morning this Saturday, a group of around twenty people gathered to participate in a sound education event as a part of the Guandu International Nature Art Festival. It wasn’t too warm out, but mosquitos insistently flocked towards us from every direction, happily biting through my nylon pants and sweaty shirt. Everyone in attendance was scratching before an attendee finally lit a mosquito coil, the fragrant smoke helping to keep the itch-inducing creatures at bay.

Ms. Laila Fan, who had been invited by the festival to host the workshop, began by inviting everyone not to think of her in this moment as a teacher, but rather all of us as unique listeners informed by our own experiences.

“When you hear certain sounds,” she explained, “you’ll connect them with your own memories to try and identify the sound source.” Laila played her field recordings of five elements on a Bluetooth speaker for us: earth, water, wind, fire, and wood, asking us to try and guess which recording was which element.

“Well, I hear birds and insects…”

“This sounds like a stream!”

Notably, Laila had represented the sound of fire in the form of a bubbling geothermal spring. The fire-like energy from the Earth combined with boiling spring water allowed for more than one element to be represented in this field recording. In this way, field recordings of nature sounds demonstrate the amalgamations, subtractions, and transmogrifications of the five elements as they ebb and flow between different physical states, which we may perceive through their acoustic properties. Laila explained how microphones are like human ears, but without the subjectivity of the human brain. So, the act of listening back to recorded sounds may be very different from our experience of hearing that sound in person, and can teach us a lot by awakening our mind and senses.

Following this insight into Laila’s listening philosophy, we were asked to choose a spot some ways apart from each other and were given a piece of paper and colors to transcribe our aural experiences into visual ones. Laila suggested at first to plug our ears and just observe through sight before unplugging our ears and shutting our eyes to listen to the surroundings. We were instructed to try not to literally transcribe an identifiable sound source, but rather to consider timbre as it manifested in our perception as color and shapes.



In my first minute of this listening exercise, I plugged my ears and “listened” with my eyes. I was elated by my visual senses, loving especially the gray diffuse light as it spilled through the treetop foliage. And when I unplugged my ears and slammed my eyes shut, I laughed at the abundance of chirps, squeaks, and chatters of the creatures around me. It sounded like a lovely mid-morning brunch—curious and cheery!


I realized that our senses are inter-connected. I appreciated how my eyes delivered beautiful images to my brain that my ears couldn’t, and how my ears gave me aural information about my surroundings, even though I couldn’t see what I was hearing. My senses of sight and sound came together and told me exactly where I was: forest. Using my pink crayon, I clumsily sketched an empty circle with a colored background in one corner of the paper, and a colored-in circle with a blank background next to it. In this, there is that. Yin-yang.

We all came back together and placed our colorings on the ground in a collage. After taking turns guessing which sounds were depicted visually, the original artist got to explain what they were actually hearing and how they decided to sketch it on paper. Every person had a different interpretation from the original intent of what the author had drawn.

“We can’t always use our own ways of explaining everything,” Laila said. “Everyone has their own form of creative thinking. This way of thinking is deep listening, inner-quiet.” In celebration of this quilt we had just woven, we gathered into a tight circle and sang to each other while Laila rang a windchime.

“The Taiwan indigenous Bunun people consider singing as going directly to God.” Though our improvisation only lasted five minutes, it felt as if we had all tuned into each other on a deep level.


Listen to the sounds of our group vocal meditation



***













As our morning together drew to a close, different color paints were splashed onto a white canvas, and we took turns blowing the paint across the canvas with straws. Vials of glitter and dirt gathered from the park were also available to dust on the painting, symbolizing the five elements that we had been working with sonically and metaphorically during the workshop.



         

“Once you blow your breath through the straw to move the paint, you become like the wind. You put your nashi [Bunun word for spirit, chi, life] into the air. It is your awareness of your own contributions to this work. You also merge with others’ breath. That this is a silent act means you can listen to each other, participate and transform together. You enter your inner-quiet in order to understand and to feel.”



Photos provided courtesy of The Soundscape Association of Taiwan