Right now I am taking part in Ming-Hwa Yeh’s third version of a piece we began working on around August 2014. The resulting performance at that time was called Nordic and in its new version, Dreamin’ MoNTUE, it has become an installation with frequent live performances by Ming-Hwa, pianist A-Kwan and myself. Right now my appearances have mainly been for one visitor at an appointed time.
So far this is a very interesting experiment, where my previous role as a sort of wandering local spirit or genius loci and shaman, receives a more open-form performance component: I basically do whatever I fancy, from talking and singing to playing and just watching.
Performances last till early May and I will resume my participation after coming back from Shanghai next week.
Weblink to the Museum of National Taiwan University of Education.
Recently my Resonance students – plus a few guests – joined the second Sound Journey. The first Sound Journey was about the Art of Listening, in Hsinchu. This time, we delved into musical traditions in an outdoor camping/guesthouse site in Puli, with fantastic views of the valleys and mountains of Nantou. The central event was a visit to the Bunun village of Mingder, now called Naihunpu (formerly Naifubo) in the Bunun vernacular. Here we were warmly received by mainly elder people (mostly 50+) of this small community. I visited them for the first time in 2005, when I stayed there for a few days, talking to them and recording their songs on audio and video. I was introduced to them at that time by Dr. Wu Rung Shun, the well-known expert on Taiwanese indigenous music and a recordist/compiler of the most extensive collection of published recordings from Taiwan, The Music of the Aborigines on Taiwan Island Vol. 1-9.
The Music of the Aborigines on Taiwan Island, Vol. 1: The Bunun
Recording the Bunun of Naihunpu in 2005 (they gave me their dress to wear for the occasion).
In 2005 I was struck by the Bunun’s music, their hospitality and their willingness to share their music, dance and wisdom with me. But I had no opportunity to follow up on my visit for a long time. Last year I finally returned, meeting some familiar faces and quite a few new ones too. I wasn’t just interested to learn more about their music for myself; I thought it would also be great if my students had a chance to experience their music. After all this music is always polyphonic, and it is more interesting to learn it together. So I asked the Bunun leaders if we could come over one afternoon to learn from them, and they agreed. They pointed out that they had Wu Rung Shun’s students visiting and that it was not easy to learn their songs. We were slightly uncertain as to how satisfying this would be for both parties. They had never worked with a group like ours, that is, a group of students that did not study music at the academic level. Perhaps we would not be able to make much of their music ourselves?
We came prepared: all of us had listened to the CD the Bunun from this village had recently produced, with a selection of their repertoire. And the evening before I had talked about different vocal styles and techniques and practised these with the group. We had also tried a Kyrie from Corsica, a polyphonic Christian song that I deemed appropriate to learn during this Easter weekend.
We were warmly received by a large group of about twenty people who were all introduced to us, and we all introduced ourselves to them. They were clearly very willing and eager to teach us about their music and perform for us. They insisted to change to their full traditional regalia of dresses, pants, headbands, earrings and carry-on bags, so they looked fabulous. Surprisingly, what seemed to be newly-made handwoven vests, turned out to be actually quite old, and worn for many occasions throughout the years. They took great care to maintain it.
After watching several pieces performed by them, I asked if we could mingle and spread out between them, men between men, women between women. That would allow my students to better hear that each individual sings something different. After all, in a recording you hear many voices, but you are not really able to find out how one particular voice moves around in the polyphonic network. They readily agreed and so we could hear at close range what different voices do: a completely different experience than hearing the whole song, played back from a CD. Ten years ago I also recorded Amis songs this way, moving between the singers so as to get a clear picture of different individual voices. It was very revealing! Suddenly the chords jump to life all around you, like some kind of enhanced-dolby-5.1-stereo – much better than that in fact.
The meeting continued with more singing, sitting between the Bunun, absorbing the richnes of their musical patterns and imitating them. They asked us to sing our Corsican Kyrie for them, which my students dared to do, even though they had only learned it the day before. It was an approriate thing to do, as the Bunun are Christians and were actually very busy this time of year preparing for next day’s Easter Sunday celebrations (later that night they still went to church to prepare for it).
Later on, we saw and heard the men sing the Pasi But But: the most famous of Bunun vocal pieces. It is so unique in the world of music that it is hard to come up with any parallel. When I first heard a recording of the Pasi But But some 20 years ago, I thought of the music of György Ligeti, the contemporary Hungarian composer whom I listened to quite a bit at that time. The slow, draggingly-ascending lines, curled up into each other, make up for a confusing sound experience, unlike most other types of polyphony (I also listened to hundreds of music traditions around the world, but the Bunun piece resembled none of them).
Thanks – again – to Wu Rung Shun’s PhD thesis of 1995, the mystery of this piece was revealed in all its fantastic detail, including all the meanings, terms, spiritual messages and other practices associated with it. With him and his colleague Dr. Chung Mingder and students at the Taipei National University of Arts we tried the piece many times. We often got lost in the steadily increasing flow of microtonal changes; sometimes we had some degree of succes; it was always intense and exhausting.
Singing the Pasi But But
We were lucky enough – at least the four males of our group – to be invited to join their Pasi But But after they had done it. Again, each man of our group was surrounded by other men, and each in one of the four pitch-groups, holding hands and twisting arms firmly behind our backs. With the guidance of the experienced Bunun men’s strong, certain voices, there was little risk of messing this piece up, and indeed the three other men who never did it before got through it alright.
Finally, we shared more food, excited talk and some wine, as well as some Jew’s harp and mouth-bow playing to conclude our acquaintance.
Later that night, after we returned to the house on the mountain slope where we stayed, our group members unanimously rejoiced in this learning experience. Each for themsleves, they had made very different discoveries. One heard new songs that she had never heard before from the Bunun. Another said it was revealing to sing while being surrounded by several elders. A third was thrilled to feel the powerful voice of an aged, yet virile singer next to her. Another found out that the Bunun do not simply hit some notes here and there, but make certain patterns and still structure their pieces even though they improvise. Yet another marvelled at hearing the Pasi But But at close range, which is so different form a concert performance at a distance. One of the men of our group understood much better how this song worked after being taught to sing it with them.
My thanks to all the Bunun participants in the workshop, especially chief/chairman Diang Nangavulan (centre), Biling Demu (right) and Sani Sugluman (left).
In April two excellent musicians and friends from Tuva are coming to Taiwan, so that people here can get better acquainted with this fascinating musical culture from the North. Get to know Tuvan music and culture and learn throat singing directly from established, original masters!
be amazed by Tuva’s signature sounds of throat singing
hear the beats of the shaman drum and Jew’s harp
resonate with the buzzing strings of horse-head fiddles and lute
At Wistaria, an atmospheric original Japanese building, you will be seated on tatami mats. The concert is purely acoustic, so you can enjoy the sounds directly with your own ears. An excellent way to get to know the amazing acoustic world that Tuvans have developed over the centuries. Tuva’s auditory culture has become an icon in the last two decades for its remarkable throat singing techniques, which they share with Mongolia. Choduraa Tumat and Otkun Dostay both perform seveal throat singing techniques, which you will be able to hear at close range: the soft, light technique called khöömei, the whistle-like sygyt and the thundering low kargyraa. In Tuva we also find the horse-head fiddle (igil) and erhu-like fiddle (byzaanchy), lutes (doshpuluur, chanzy) and flute (shoor), the Jew’s harp (khomus) and the shaman’s drum (dunggur), among others. Choduraa Tumat and Otkun Dostay master many of these and will play tunes and pieces from different regions and times in Tuva. Songs and pieces will be alternated with stories about and from Tuva and its rich musical folklore. The only public Tuvan concert in a very special intimate setting!
As a donation we suggest 500 NT$ for the perfomance, tea and a snack. Call Wistaria and leave your name and number for a seat: (02)2363-7375 or register here.
Sunday April 12, 10-17 1-day workshop Tuvan throat singing and culture, at Canjune Training Center
Learn to sing khöömei,sygyt and/or kargyraa with Otkun Dostay and Choduraa Tumat. The one-day Throat Singing workshop will have not just one, but two expert throat singers, including a female throat singer. A rare opportunity to learn the three basic Tuvan styles of throat singing: khöömei, sygyt and kargyraa, which tend to be a little softer and therefore easier than the Mongolian counterpart. During the day you will learn about Tuvan music and culture and get plenty of chance to hear throat singing and try it for yourself. With a maximum of 15 students (plus perhaps a few listeners), there is a chance to get personal feedback from Choduraa or Otkun for everyone. About half the time will be devoted to throat singing, the other half to other music and culture of Tuva.
Otkun Dostay teaching khöömei in Venice
We aim at a 50/50 divide of male/female voices. The workshop is held in English/Russian with Chinese translation. Mark will be there to help translate Russian-English, if needed.
This presentation features introductions, videos about the beautiful, unknown land of Tuva, a display of many styles of throat singing and different musical instruments. Choduraa Tumat and Otkun Dostay both perform seveal throat singing techniques: the soft, light technique called khöömei, the whistle-like sygyt and the thundering low kargyraa and other substyles. They will also present a selection of pieces and instruments found in Tuva, such as the horse-head fiddle (igil) and erhu-like fiddle (byzaanchy), lutes (doshpuluur, chanzy) and flute (shoor), the Jew’s harp (khomus) and the shaman’s drum (dunggur). Choduraa Tumat and Otkun Dostay master many of these. Songs and pieces will be alternated with stories about and from Tuva and its rich musical folklore. Afterwards there is a chance to talk to the musicians during the Q&A.
The concert at NCCU is free and open for everyone. Just register here. Without reservation there may still be places when you come, there is no guarantee but there are 300+ seats.
In the late 1980s Dostay was the youngest member of the internationally acclaimed Tuva Ensemble. During the late Soviet era he enrolled a theatre school in Leningrad (now Sint-Petersburg), and was engaged in acting, dancing and storytelling. With fellow students Stanislav Iril and Olaak Ondar he took part in Buddhist ceremonies in Leningrad and founded the group Özüm (‘sprouts’). They recorded their first CD in 1991, published by Window to Europe/Orpheus. Dostay has continued to direct Özüm with changing group members over time. He plays horse-head fiddle, all the Tuvan varieties of Jew’s harp and the shaman’s drum. He organised festivals to commemorate the great throat-singer Gennadi Tumat in his native village Khandagayti. He is currently active as the founder-director of the Tuvan-Japanese friendship Center and works as a correspondent for Tuvan State Radio, under the State TV & Radio Company. He regularly performs in solo, duo and ensemble projects, which he toured in Germany, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Morroco, Japan and China. He has been involved in recording, producing and playing on several CDs of Tuvan music published in Russia, Japan and Europe. In 2013 he published his first solo CD, an exciting mix of traditional songs and melodies with 21st-century sounds.
Born in Western Tuva, as a girl Tumat was fond of listening to khoomei and sygyt throat singing performed by her brothers. She studied traditional music in music college in Tuva and went on to become one of the world’s most active female overtone/throat singers, as well as the founder and artistic leader of the all-female throat-singing folk ensemble Tyva Kyzy (‘Daughters of Tuva’, www.tyvakyzy.com). She is an accomplished performer of all basic throat-singing styles, sings traditional folk songs, and plays various Tuvan string instruments, Jew’s harps and zither. As a performer, she received many titles in Tuva. She is a teacher of traditional music and khöömei throat-singing at the Pedagogical College of Tuvan State University in Tuva’s capitol Kyzyl. With Tyva Kyzy and with solo projects she toured extensivly in the USA, Poland, Russia, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Japan. She recorded and released several CDs and DVDs, among which her outstanding solo CD Belek/ The Gift.
1970年生於圖瓦Khandagaity小鎮，為知名喉音演唱與馬頭琴表演者，亦是著名圖瓦民族音樂團體《圖瓦樂團》Tuva Ensemble的一員，於音樂上有卓越的成就，不斷受邀至日本、土耳其及荷蘭等地演出。歐特昆一直以來致力於圖瓦傳統音樂的傳承與創新，舉辦圖瓦喉音國際音樂節《Övur之地—西奇與呼麥》（Sygyt and khoomei in the land of Övur)。他不僅擔任全女子喉音團體《圖瓦的女兒》的經紀人，同時也在電視台製作音樂節目，極力推廣傳統音樂。目前於圖瓦的聯合國教科文組織UNESCO部門擔任主席。
I am excited about this invitation for the Lacking Sound Festival, a mostly-monthly event currently held in the Digital Arts Centre in Taipei, to be precise in the Noise Kitchen. This meeting point for sound-art-buffs is a wonderful space with various ingenious instruments that can be played – reminding me more of a Museum of Musical Machines in the Netherlands than a 21st century Digital Arts site. Anyway, I have invited Serge Onnen to join me in creating something analog that sounds and feels digital (and quite different from the Cloacinae sound-shadow-video performance we do/did the 15th of March). Both of us favor the kind of old-fashioned manual-vocal-labour forms of artistic expression, but then, we do use computers, digital recorders and the occasional effects apparatus to manipulate our creations. So here is the press-blurb:
Mirroring Mark van Tongeren (sound) and Serge Onnen (image) dissect our everyday perception, enlarging our ordinary vision and audition to include the unseen and unheard. Mirrors, opposites and negatives of our everyday sense world.
Mark van Tongeren is currently fascinated by the voice as an instrument producing numbers, namely, the strict numerical ratios of overtones. When this is made audible through the technique of overtone singing, the voice almost loses its human identity: its sounds seem like pure sine waves. Digits, that is, whole numbers or whole-number ratios could be considered the DNA of our voice. In this installment of his theme The Digital & The Vocal, Mark offers an electro-acoustic performance where the distinctions between the digital and the vocal are blurred. Environmental recordings, extended vocal techniques, Jew’s harps and a Kaosspad further link the physical, everyday world with the digital, and the archaic with the hypermodern.
Artist Serge Onnen, currently holding a solo exhibition at MOCA Taipei, simultaneously provides a live visual performance. He will mainly use mirrors: echo’s of images, stretching the reflection, face reality, double the sight and confront the audience with their image.
Last Friday evening was the opening of a solo exhibition of visual artist Serge Onnen at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Studio Underground, Taipei.
Cloacinae opening at MOCA Taipei
CLOACINAE – Goddess of the Sewers offers a selection of works by Onnen from the last ten years, including animation videos, phenakistiscopes, wallpaper, and a large shadow/sound installation made for the MOCA exhibition.
On March 15 we will do a shadow/sound performance at Taipei Artist Village. For this we will use a video compiled by Serge from inspection videos of sewers around the world. Nowadays everywhere cameras are led through sewer systems and other inaccessible places to look for obstacles or solve problems. Some of these videos have a certain kind of beauty of their own, and Serge made a good selection of those. Add to that live shadow play by Onnen and Erika Sprey, and sounds by Chao-Ming Tung and myself… and you have an unexpected visual-auditory-hallucinatory tour in the underground, there where the metro does not go. (get a preview on Serge’s blog)
We do the show two times, starting at 19:30 and 21:30 (not 22:30 as stated before), duration is one hour.
Please take note! The exhibition is taking place in the underground (Zhongshan Metro Mall, Near R9 exit), the performance is not. It is in Taipei Artist Village, No. 7, Beiping East Road, 10 minutes walk from Taipei Main Station.
I’d like to announce a couple of concerts in The Netherlands and in Poland in the coming week:
Monday 18 november, AMSTERDAM, Het Poortgebouw, 1st Floor, Tolhuisweg 2: Oorsprong Curator Series, start at 20 o’ clock. Free-improvisation with flutist Mark Alban Lotz and guitarist Bram Stadhouders and vocalist Mark van Tongeren, and several other exciting music/dance impro-combinations in two other sets that same night.
Thursday 21 November, AMSTERDAM, Mediamatic/Fabriek – Echokamer, 20:30, Superstringtrio (Rollin Rachele, Mark van Tongeren) and Daphne van Tongeren (light/performance).
Echokamer is a series of events during which composers, musicians and other sound-makers experiment with sound at, and with the sound of, Mediamatic Fabriek. The giant industrial hall reverberates and erodes, and produces quite a bit of sound all by itself. The perfect place for noisy experiments. Read more details about Superstringtrio’s sonic excursion next Thursday on this link: http://www.mediamatic.net/357851/en/echokamer-12-superstringtrio
Sunday 24 November, KRAKOW (Poland), Audio Art Festival/Bunkier Sztuki, 19 o’clock, Superstringtrio. We have been invited by Marek Choloniewski, founder of Audio Art Festival, one of the most long-standing festivals dedicated to Sound Art in all its beautiful, radical and weird manifestations, to join the ranks of many artists who have performed there in past decades. Superstringtrio will present an updated version of its performance Incognito Ergo Sum, premiered in Amsterdam earlier this year at the occasion of the PhD-defense of Mark van Tongeren’s Thresholds of the Audible- thesis at Leiden University. See a short clips of it on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/64866998. For the full program of the festival, which has already started yesterday and continues next week, check this link: http://www.audio.art.pl/
(with our thanks to Horst Rickels, who gives a workshop and concert in Krakow tomorrow with his Lesley-speakersystem, together with Robert Pravda).
In a couple of hours I am leaving Taiwan. If all goes well I might join Oorbeek tomorrow, Saturday 16 November at the opening of The New Institute in ROTTERDAM. Set 1 at 17 o’ clock, set 2 at 17:45. 6th floor, Museumpark 25, 3015 CB Rotterdam,
──你得發現屬於自己的航道。 Mark 與 Hans 親自帶領. 大師合作, 精彩可期!
Hans de Back, world-renowned percussionist/singing bowl/gong player from Holland, has returned to Taiwan once again. Hans and Mark will share the intimate ‘stage’ of HansUna’s singing bowl paradise for another evening of bowls, bells, gong, sruti’s, Jew’s harps and overtone singing.
Date and time
Friday, August 23, 2013, from 19:30 till 21.
One hour of live music, plus 30 minutes of Q&A,
with some exercises to try some of our sounds for yourselves.
Damage: 600 NT$.
You can reserve a seat by writing an email to Una Kao:
and do bring some friends if you like!
If you cannot make it, keep an eye on our blogs/Facebook. We’ll have one or two more houseconcerts in ShiDa: in October (maybe) and in November (29).
Live recording from a piece I did in May 2012 in Hsinchu, Taiwan, at the invitation of the Taiwan Computer Music Association. It was an excellent program of works by various Taiwanese composers of music with computers (Jeff Huang. Chao Ming Tung, TZENG Shingkwei and orthers). I was invited to do a piece together with composer Tzeng Shing-kwei and, before that, to do some of my own work. After a piece for extended vocal techniques, also on VIMEO, I did this longer piece of overtone singing with drones from a shruti box.
Another piece I did in Hsinchu at the invitation of the Taiwan Computer Music Association: a work for extended vocal techniques, and also using a Sakha (Siberian) Jew’s harp (or khomus), thereby losely incorporating elements from typical computer generated sounds.