Soundscape of Body (大音希聲) was a recent performance created for the 2018 Body Donation Day by the Body Donation Program of the University of Hong Kong. It was choreographed specially to introduce the audience to “life and death education” while provoking thoughts about the value and meaning of life and our body.
The performance works by scanning the body using low energy lasers, then translating the readings into music and lights. It was designed to bring a new perspective to how perceive the body, transforming flesh to soundscape; it reflects the body’s nature and relationship with our life.
“The largest square has no corners. The greatest vessel takes the longest to finish. Great music has the faintest notes. The great form is without shape.”
Tao Te Ching, chapter 41
Keith Lam talks about natural raw building blocks (hair and skin etc) and uniqueness of each body – different shapes and sizes. The form are like “mountain ranges and coastlines”, thus a landscape which can also be read as a musical score. The concept makes this performance is very similar to John Cage’s Variation V as it used the same idea of the human body as the subject to produce sounds and projection.
The audience are first introduced to a body as the dancers enter the scene, wandering among them, wearing only bodyline.
When the dancers lie down on the bed, the lights turned off followed by the start of the audio and visual projection.
The bodies are scanned twice each to generate the music and visuals one by one. They start with subtle movements “with the idea of exploration” before making bigger movements beneath the scanner; starting with the fetus position signalling the start of a new life.
Different speed and volume of movement generate different layers and rhythm of audio and visual. The musician (people that control the system) and dancers coordinate to allow wider gestures such as sitting up.
As the end approaches, the performance reaches its peak and becomes more intense. The strong and fast change in movements leads to more layers that are louder and stronger before a diminuendo to calm and peaceful movements.
You may watch the video here -> http://dimensionplus.co/sob/gallery/20180304/154459/
At last, the dancers rises from the bed after the music fades out, turning to watch their own body soundscape.
After the performers leave the stage, a voice over leads the audience to feedback and rethink about our own body with expressive arts self exploration process and to think about life.
The ending script is as follows:
Life creates stories,
and our bodies contain all these chapters,
none of our bodies are the same,
every life is unique …
And now…I’d like to invite you to notice your breath,
with an appreciating heart,
notice the rhythm of your heartbeat and your pulse，
listen to the message from each and every single part of your body,
and now… (House light fades in)
in your house program, there is a sheet with the outline of a body,
if that was your body,
what kind of picture/landscape would you draw in this body?
Life is precious,
For sure our bodies are worthy,
and even when we reach the end of our lives,
our bodies are still precious.
This performance is quite a lengthy one, about half an hour. A very slow burn process to immerse the audience into a ‘meditative’ state where they can tap into their own existence. The ending script uses phrases similar to “you are breathing manually” to awaken your conscious awareness of your body functions that are usually natural and done without your control.