Culture — November 26, 2012 at 6:16 pm

Musicity Singapore



As far as academia goes, there is plenty of discourse on the interrelationship between music and architecture. For one, architect/musician Mahmoud Riad (2010) elaborates on the discussion of architectural design directly influencing music creation. He also expounds on their commonality through the concept of rhythm, which in the case of architecture is exemplified by strategic positioning of specific structural elements.   

Building on to these premises is the Musicity project, an ongoing location-based music initiative that examines the convergence of design and sound aesthetics with the added element of physical experience. Conceived by Britons music curator Nick Luscombe and creative strategist Simon Jordan, the initiative commissions recording artists to compose original music as a creative response to given architectural and cultural landmarks in their respective cities. These individual compositions are then made available for streaming via smart-phones only at their respective locations within a timeframe. The primary objective being a catalyst to bring about a refreshing dimension to the urban experience – a re-engagement of perspectives brought forth by an amalgamation of different artistic expressions.     

Launched first in London (2010) and subsequently Tokyo (March 2012), the project is now in its third installment in Singapore (October 3 – November 30). Sprawled across iconic sites in the city region including The Esplanade, Asian Civilisation Museum, Gardens by the Bay and Singapore Art Museum, seven location soundtracks, including a couple of collaborations with two acclaimed UK artists, present the sonic narratives of seven local musicians following months of studio engagement.

These are all artists who’s covered good ground in their musical pursuits. Folk singer-songwriter Mara Carlyle, one of the English collaborators, has since released two albums (The Lovely and Floreat) to positive acclaim. The other, producer Jon Hopkins, has under his belt a Mercury Prize nomination for his collab album with King Creosote Diamond Mine and studio work with the likes of ambient/electronic godfathers Brian Eno and David Holmes.   

On the local front, Jason Tan (Octover) has been a top-rated music producer since the very early days debuting with Punk Monk Hunk (1993), the second album by local music progenitor X’Ho (under his earlier alias Chris Ho), whose upfront and insightful early music articles in Straits Times’ Life were a major source of inspiration for this writer in the formative years. Tan has since worked with industry heavyweights such as veteran DJ Paul Oakenfold and chalked up production credits for Mandarin-pop artistes in the respective markets of Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and more recently at home for the Singapore Idol winners who have gone on to forge promising careers in singing. Another renowned in-demand sound artist, Sonicbrat is a prolific composer who has worked with local and international artists and directors in theatre, film, art and contemporary dance over the past 12 years or so. He has also bagged numerous accolades including solo performances in various countries, 12 nominations, 3 awards (Best Sound Designer) and an Honorary Mention for the annual Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards over the years.     

Apart from those, Cosa Nostra is a two-piece outfit that has been pushing for many years the afro-centric vibe embracing the sounds of hip hop, funk, soul, jazz, house and whatnot with a record label (Darker Than Wax) and several releases to boot. I am David Sparkle, with its guitar-laden and chord-driven instrumental post-rock sensibilities, is a consortium of seasoned stalwarts from the local indie/punk scene with three LP/EPs, a Best Alternative Act award (Motorola SuperStyle MIX 2007) as well as numerous festival appearances on the score sheet. Last but certainly not the least, MUON and The Analog Girl have both released several albums over the last decade in the experimental /electronic vein, all proper material well-deserving of scrutiny. 

Artist profiles aside, also noteworthy are some intriguing bits on their creation processes and muses on-site. Sonicbrat, for example, recounts a meditative session where he eventually becomes one with the lithesome plants at the site. Turntablist Koflow describes a “parallel impact” whereby the architectural space, an architect’s work of art, channels creative energy to himself, also an artist albeit in the musical sense to then write a score on it. For ‘Like Dragons’, an interesting fusion of modern synthesiser grooves with the Chinese orchestra sounds of erhu, pi pa, flute, strings and percussion, The Analog Girl drew inspiration at the site from a pillar carving depicting the metamorphosis of a carp into a dragon – an emblem of perseverance in ancient Chinese mythology.

So, for those who haven’t already been, head on down with a smartphone to the sites before November 30 for an assemblage of multi-sensory experiences. And for the conceptually-inclined, perhaps first have an overall feel of the ambience and visualise your own soundtrack, before diving into the composers’ works for a comparison.    


The Making of Musicity Singapore from Video Vault on Vimeo.


Soundtrack Guide:

Gardens By the Bay: Lithe – Mara Carlyle and Sonicbrat

ArtScience Museum: ASM – Jon Hopkins and Jason Tan (Octover)

School of the Arts: Experiential – Koflow

Hong San See Temple: Like Dragons – The Analog Girl

Asian Civilisation Museum: Walking Through Walls – I am David Sparkle

The Esplanade: Emergence – MUON

Singapore Art Museum: World Class – Cosa Nostra


British Council Singapore