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Yuan. A Formosan Musical Machine

2019.6.18 [Other Machines]


'Yuan 原'
Innovation and tradition should not be antithetic. The old is not always the past tense of the new. However, when time and memory are all gone, what are we left with? This project offers audiences the opportunity to reflect on themselves, through a perspective that looks into the triangular relationship between machine, human and nature. Audiences can re-create the Formosan music by the artefactual/ natural components. Through this interactive machine to know the traditional Formosan music which has the feature of natural sound reproduction, as well as demonstrates the ‘LOST’, and encourages people to value their original intention. Because it's too late to be concerned with it when it has already disappeared.
Now, it's time to make your Formosan music!


Inspiration

1. Drum Machine / Beat Machine
I saw this drum machine on the Kickstarter website. Actually, I found this project was quite dramatic, that I was doing a quiz on Kickstarter, then this project was the result of the quiz. After that, I started thinking about my new project direction. I felt that ‘drum machine’ might be the possibility which I could develop the Formosan music by remixing their song with natural sound.

2. Fortune-telling Machine
I saw this machine in the Design Museum in London a year ago actually. When I was doing the tutorial with Maria Yablonina, that she told about this kind of machine. I suddenly remembered I’ve seen the Trump one in the Design Museum before. They both have a doll in the box, and the machine will print out a paper when users press the button or put money in. It basically is a simple interactive machine, which plays some fortune sentences and prints out the similar content fortune paper for people to keep it.

3. Score for Fontana Mix – John Cage (1958)
I remember my tutor Wesley had mentioned in the class. But when we dis- cussed my project, he told about it again. It’s a super interesting way to repre- sent music rather than the usual. I guess if I didn’t see this series of artwork, I might still be limited in the general note.

From invisible to visible

Stage1: The central range
Following the inspiration from John Cage, I tried to use this idea to create my version. When I doing some survey work, I saw a Taiwanese comic which based in the Taiwan central range. Thus, it gave me a new idea to develop my work.

Stage2: Node.js
Before I did this stage, I was imaging that this part is the toughest part for me. Because I’ve never tried to use JavaScript before honestly. But the truth is they are actually straightforward. Just like the processing which I’ve learnt a little bit last year. I can’t believe I made something by JS. I made it!

Stage3: Buttons and MIDI
After doing Node.js, the nightmare hasn’t stopped. Because I just jump to C language from JavaScript, even I’ve tried to use Arduino before. I always remember that coding evening, three tutors seat and stand around me, all of us were confused that we can‘t find the bug. After I finished the prototyping, I started thinking about what else of work I can do by MIDI. It’s super interesting.

Stage4: Print it!
Finally, we were going to print the visual work from Node.js and MIDI. The viewers can get a peice of paper of Yuan after playing this machine. This part of work is aim to guide audience create both music and visual art and observe the relationship between these two works. However, sound will be forgot. The image on the paper will disappear one day. We are interested what reaction will the viewers have.

Formosan aesthetic

According to Formosan’s aesthetic, I tried to use their totem as the exterior, and then combine with my interpretation. Thus, when audiences observing this machine, they can understand the feature of Formosan, such the animism worship, and their traditional custom, which including the female face tattoo, hundred-pacer snake’s incarnation, sun, crops and the patterns Formosan used to put on their clothes. To make the layering effect, I tried to use different techniques to make it for in- creasing the precision.

The Aim to share our culture.

The reason that I decided to make a work with a keyboard, that’s because I want to use my method to protect this culture and share with everyone. I suppose the young generation is definitely the heir of the last. But what I can’t agree is our previous generation always forces us that we have to follow the rules, keep the tradition complete. They didn’t notice time is changing, and young people have their opinion as well. If they are sure they can protect this piece of culture, but it has to use their way. I think all the last should let go and cheer for their children. Such as this project, I’m trying to use a new way, my way, to share our culture to the world. The elders might think it’s rough, but I like it, everyone like it, and it does make more people knowing it, then it’s enough.

What is Yuan going to say?

Innovation and tradition should not be antithetic. The old is not always the past tense of the new. However, when time and memory are all gone, what are we left with? Elders Drinking Song (Duana, D ., 1998) was the most famous Formosan traditional song from Taiwan. It promoted Taiwan to the world. But along the singer passed away, how many people still remember this valuable music? Along the technologies developing, the tradition will be replaced slowly. So, what Yuan going to say is please hold on something you might be lost when you are listening to this comfortable song. No matter what is it, original intention, a piece of paper, a sentence or even a person.

Yuan. A Musical Interactive Machine from Mich Tsai on Vimeo.


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All works and contents are from Mich Tsai 2019.