Fri, Dec 10, 2004 - Page 13 News List

Sample A Moving Sound if you can

It's hard to know if A Moving Sound is music or theater. It is in fact both

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

A Moving Sound performs at Taipei's Red Theater.


Scott Prairie and Mia Hsieh (謝韻雅) first bumped into each other, quite literally, while attending a "contact jam" in New York, a kind of improvisation workshop that fuses modern dance and aikido.

"It involves finding your own improvisational ideas, but then having a point of contact," Prairie explained, then demonstrated by tapping Hsieh on the arm.

"It's about energy following reasoning," Hsieh said, picking up where Prairie left off.

If you don't follow the reasoning, don't worry, it's easier to follow Hsieh and Prairie's energy.

What started as a bump at that New York City workshop blossomed into a friendship, a creative collaboration, a marriage and, more recently, A Moving Sound (聲動劇場); the enterprise that is plowing under old notions of music and theater and sowing an artistic plot unlike any in Taiwan's creative landscape. The fruit of the efforts is a new release on Taiwan Colors Music, Little Universe, and anyone interested in tasting it is advised to catch one of A Moving Sound's performances next week in Taipei, Tainan or Kaohsiung.

The sound it serves up is best described by its ingredients. Prairie trained in classical music on the French horn but gave it up for psychology. Hsieh came to singing and dancing by way of theater administration. By the time Prairie met Hsieh, he had already gone back to music and bought a bass guitar that he'd retuned to get the effect he wanted. By the time she met Prairie, Hsieh had already stopped administering theater troupes in Taiwan to explore her own creativity in New York as part of a Fulbright scholarship.

Prairie tells of how Hsieh found her voice at a vocalization workshop at New York City's CBGB, after which the workshop organizers held an impromptu contest.

"The contest was yodeling," Prairie said. "Somebody dragged Mia on stage with all these crazy vocalists taking their turn. And when it came her turn she said `What is yodeling?' ... So somebody yodeleheehooed -- put it in her ear. She just let it fly and won the contest."

Her prize, she learned later, was six weeks of voice lessons with a contemporary of Meredith Monk, the pioneer of "extended vocal technique," whose work intersects music and movement.

"Before that, most of my experience was dance" in Taiwan, Hsieh said.

Like Monk, Hsieh became interested in the combination of voice and movement. Her interest was the seed that later sprouted into her and Prairie's sister project, A Moving Sound Theater. In their musical collaborations, Hsieh will construct a vocal narrative to melodies that Prairie has written, Several of Little Universe's tracks are sung in a language Hsieh has improvised, though you have to listen closely before realizing as much. Movement is used to help move the narrative, or else to involve the audience, give them instruments or get them dancing.

But they're hardly alone in their collaboration, be it for music or theatre. A Moving Sound is joined by percussionists Alex Wu (吳政君), from Taiwan and Eduardo Campos from Brazil, and guitarist Pieter Thys from Belgium. For their show at the Red Theater next Thursday, they'll be joined onstage by another 10 artists and musicians.

The quintet actually finished recording Little Universe in November of last year (It was reviewed in Taipei Times' May 9 issue of this year under its original title, Pacu's Trip) In the past year, they toured the album through several US cities -- including Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, New York and Pittsburgh, as well as performing at the Asian Acoustic Music Festival back in Taiwan and regular appearances at the Red Theater and Wisteria Tea House, to name a few.

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