(ECNS) — Sound artist Colin Chinnery has been collecting sounds from across China for the past 10 years. Speaking with the Beijing dialect, they have moved their sound museum to a new 6,000-square-meter location in Songzhuang Town, east of the capital.
The Chinese philosopher Confucius said, “At fifty, I knew the laws of heaven,” but Chinari, in his fifties, is still busy and worried about the unknown tomorrow. The new Sound Art Museum, set to open this fall, is where Chinari will begin her new journey of recording Chinese sounds.
Sound Museum expanded 1,000 times
Chinnery started a project for the Shijia Hutong Museum in 2017. The six square meter sound exhibition is where he started working with sound for himself. The smaller project will be replaced by a 6,000 square meter sound art museum.
Chinery entrusts its efforts to a variety of issues, including museum design, exhibition planning, visitor feedback, museum operations, and more.
“When you try something new, there are so many unknowns that you have to hunt for solutions and let go of your anxiety,” said Chinari.
Compared to the previous Sound Project, the Sound Art Museum is rich in exhibits under six themes, for example, The Sounds of Old Beijing, Language and Music, Theory of Sound, and Sound and Sensibility.
A dazzling array of old Beijing writings are displayed in the exhibition hall, including a variety of pigeons of various sizes and voices.
In Chinari’s eyes, the dove’s whistling sound marks the beginning of a collectivization of Chinese sounds, as well as the individual journey to Beijing.
Recording of Chinese Life and Culture
How would Chineri describe “the voice of China”? There is no such thing as a “Chinese sound” in their eyes because China is a huge country.
Besides Beijing, where he has long lived, Chinari has also explored other parts of China, including the southwestern mountainous areas and Taiyuan city in Shanxi province, and collected five to six hundred sounds, Of which the people of Litang County in Sichuan, southwest China, remain fresh. In her memory.
To collect sounds of local life and culture for the Litang Himalayan Sound Museum, Chinari set foot for the first time in Litang at an altitude of about 4,000 meters in July 2019. Although he only stayed here for a week, he achieved a lot with the help of the local residents.
Here, they were often seen by local villagers on headphones and with a microphone in hand as they walked through the long corridors of temples to record the crisp sound of prayer wheels.
Amidst the farm, he persuaded shy local villagers to record their folk songs to the sound of medicinal herbs being harvested.
Chinari said that simple and natural singing has been integrated into the environment.
At one wedding, a group of Tibetan men used bottles as microphones to sing joyful toasts in front of Chinari’s camera.
What the artist recorded is not only the sound, but the Chinese culture and life.
Hearing Power: The Sound of Aakash Burial
Sky burial, the most popular and prominent funeral custom in Tibet, is another sound that Chinari wanted to record during his visit to Litang.
But things didn’t go well even as he had planned his recording. He was able to attend such a burial only on the last day of his journey.
“I couldn’t expect to see such a burial so I thought I had to forget about it,” he thought at first.
Unexpectedly, he received a phone call informing him of a sky burial, which he had recorded in full.
Chinari believes that the sound of such a special burial is like a letter that will never be opened.
They could not be used for any purpose but could be preserved like a collection for people to find, he said.
A Man-Made Time Tunnel to Experience Ancient China
Recording sound is not an art, said Chinari, adding that he generally creates sounds for exhibitions with a variety of themes and sites.
As contemporary art flourished in China in recent years, Chinari has taken its voice to many exhibitions.
He is particularly proud of the sound work he created for an exhibition with the theme of the original sounds of Taiyuan, organized by the Changjiang Art Museum in the city during July 2021.
In this work, Chineri invited experts from Shanxi literature and Chinese historical linguists to read classic parts of selected Western classical literature from the Tang to the Qing dynasties by imitating the sounds of the respective times. In addition, he chose a patio-like place in Taiyuan to better represent the work.
When asked how the idea of using ancient sounds to represent Shanxi came to him, born in Edinburgh, he said that he was inspired by a lecture about Shanxi culture.
“Shanxi had many literary giants in history and it would be great if I could recreate their voices,” he said.
Constantly searching for Chinese sounds
When Chinnery repeats sounds that have disappeared or are disappearing, such as a hawker cries at the gate of his yard and the ticking of the taximeter, he is reminded of home.
Chinneri came to Beijing with his mother in 1979, when the city barely had tall buildings and looked like a large village. He has spent most of his life here and has seen the city change over time.
“I’ve been in China since 1979 and almost every year, I’m either living or going here,” said Chineri.
“Beijing is really home to me,” he said.
Chinari said that new voices are always replacing the old ones around the world. Recalling recorded sounds, he clearly stated that there is no such thing as good or bad sound in a certain sense.
“If you’re in a rural area and you don’t have electricity, the sound of a power generator can be amazing,” he explained.
Man hopes that his work may provide more clues to the treatment of these sounds and the benefits and harms behind them in the face of the continuing effects of modernization.
Final preparations for the Museum of Sound Art are underway as autumn begins, and Chinari will begin its new journey of recording Chinese sounds here.
In addition to recording sound, Chinari will also plan more diverse, creative and immersive sound exhibitions for visitors.
“We very much want this new form of institution, the Sound Art Museum, to be direct communication with the public, who want to experience new things, you want to learn new things, and we want to be part of that process,” Chinari said.