Culture Shock

In October 2011, I was fortunate enough to be selected as a finalist in the New Generation Composition Competition as part of Electronic Music Week in Shanghai, Peoples Republic of China. I was even more fortunate to be able to attend the performance and the associated conference.

The trip to China has been an absolute revelation to me. Although I had visited Asia before and have travelled extensively, I had my first experience of Culture Shock. I was quite overcome by the language barrier and by the way of life in general. Many things were new to me – wet markets with live animals being bought and then slaughtered, mopeds everywhere, the most confusing pedestrian crossing system I have ever known…

As well as experiencing a ‘visual’ culture shock, I also feel that I suffered from an ‘aural’ culture shock. As part of my normal ‘going abroad’ ritual, I took some basic recording equipment – a microtrack recorder and some binaural headphones. However, despite having a written record of all the recordings I made, some come to the foreground of my memory far more quickly than others – almost like they would in a dream. I would refer to these as Aural Landmarks or Earcons.

One of the most beautiful and mesmerising things I heard in China was the sound of a yangqin playing the traditional tune Zi Zhu Diao (The Purple Bamboo). As such, it plays an important part in this piece.


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