With our event with Joby Burgess and Reylon on 18 September fast approaching, we sat down with yangqin player Reylon to discuss his programme – a 20-minute collage that fuses improvisation, electronics and alternative folk.
Tell us more about your programme on 18 September and what we can expect from it
I'll be performing a 20-minute set that collages together original alt-folk songs, experimental yangqin improvisation, and soundscape composition. This is the result of a summer spent exploring different intersections between electroacoustic music and folk music. Audiences can expect to hear some warped but recognisable textures, including fragments of conversation, connected with a shape-shifting acoustic performance on the yangqin, which will be alternately intimate and unsettling.
For audiences who may be unfamiliar with a yangqin, could you tell us a little bit more about it?
The yangqin (扬琴) is a percussive string instrument, also known as the Chinese hammered dulcimer. Its body consists of a hollow wooden trapezoid covered by over 150 steel strings, which the player strikes with bamboo mallets tipped with rubber. With a naturally lengthy sustain, the yangqin emits a blend of tones when played.
Your set uses augmented yangqin, found sound and voice. What kind of soundworld have you explored and how have you integrated electronics with the acoustic elements of the piece?
The soundworld of the set extends what I understand to be qualities commonly associated with "folk" music – naturalistic, communal, acoustically resonant, etc. – into an electroacoustic space. I composed a dynamic tape by manipulating recordings of different environments, materials, yangqin textures, and conversations through techniques such as granular synthesis. In the performance, I interact with this tape in different ways through playing and singing.
You also mention that your set stems from a contemplation of how transcultural experience fragments identity and the ways we attempt to weave ourselves back together. Could you tell us more about that?
I attempted to sonically represent the tensions embedded in the processes of self-navigation and self-narrativising that come with living across cultures. As a biracial Chinese American, I've faced various challenges trying to reconcile aspects of my identity that feel at once incongruous and indispensable. The work itself represents an amalgamation of music cultures and stylistic conventions, embodying in its form the endeavor to make sense of competing influences. It also takes to heart a notion that the act of creating itself is a means of generating cohesion out of fragmentation.
For our regular attenders, they'll remember that you won our Battle of the Bands contest earlier this year. What have you been up to since then?
The most exciting thing I've been up to since Battle of the Bands is developing projects with Tangram, a new artist collective opening up spaces beyond the China-West dichotomy. We create and curate new music using a mix of Chinese and western instruments.
Tickets are still available for our gig on 18 September with Joby Burgess, Reylon and Lola de la Mata. For more information and to book tickets, visit the event page.