Early in 2020, the music community was forced to close its doors, not only to the outside world, but to each other. Creative partnerships were lost, performances cancelled, studio time scrapped.
In response to these limitations, as is often the case, innovation and cooperation blossomed. Melbourne’s Music in Exile label, a not-for-profit aimed at profiling musicians from refugee and migrant backgrounds that give the city its world-class reputation in the arts, kick started the new Building Bridges series, aimed at keeping individuals connected and inspired during lockdown.
Nervous Energy, a collaborative effort between Chinese/Australian avant-garde composer Mindy Meng Wang 王萌, and her Melbourne-based contemporary Tim Shiel, is the first product of this series. Over the course of the year, as COVID restrictions ebbed and flowed, Tim & Mindy worked ceaselessly on developing new material, first recorded by Mindy on her 21-string traditional guzheng, and then shared with Tim via the internet to be reworked into something neither had imagined possible.
The result is four compositions that oscillate from breakbeat to minimal house influences and laid-back dub and pop sounds, underpinned throughout by an acoustic instrument almost two metres long and thousands of years old. It is a hymn to the world Mindy inhabits, a place where tradition is forced to adapt with changing values and different cultures.
Throughout the record, Mindy’s strong association with visual imagery and traditional Chinese storytelling prevails, conjuring images of “eastern power and beauty” and “a dreamland surrounded by clouds and mist, as if you are floating in the cloud.”
As Mindy says, “Tim’s music made my blood surge immediately, and I couldn’t help holding my breath; my muscles tightened, like a wild leopard about to jump out from the dark, or balancing on a string up high in the sky. I used the guzheng to create a meditation of tranquility in the chaos, to try calm my emotions and fast heartbeat. The gentle melody brings rational control and pulls everything back to a perfect balance."
N.B. There are two sittings for this event: 6:30pm & 8:15pm
Tickets are free and will be allocated by ballot.
Visit phoenixcentralpark.com.au for more info.