In response to the recent impossibility of travel, in 2021, Ting Shuo Hear Say in Taiwan initiated a project with Women In Sound Women On Sound (WISWOS) in the UK to partner female sound artists for remote collaborations. Their resulting tracks have been published on the recently released album, Elastic Parallels. In a series of three conversations, we learn about the motivations and reflections of the artists in each of the pairings.
Francesca Simmons and Li-Chin Li are two highly skilled instrumentalists that blend melodic content and traditional references with explorative technique, playful improvisatory energy and experimental sound.
Interview edited by Chloe Knibbs
Q: Tell us about your artistic practice to date and what initially attracted you to the project.
Francesca: I’m a Welsh experimental composer, multi-disciplinary soloist and collaborator, based in Bristol, UK. The project sounded like a great chance to reach out and collaborate with a new artist, a different culture and an intriguing sound world.
Li-Chin: I’m a Taiwan “sheng” soloist and am also a musician/artist. I was attracted to the project so I could be matched to an unknown musician, it was like an adventurous and exciting draw. This also happened to meet my recent goal of collaborating with artists from many disciplines as I hope to explore a different self through the sparks of collaboration.
Q: What was it like to make work with an international partner and to carry out the collaboration online in the context of COVID-19?
Francesca: Connecting with Li-Chin, through sharing ideas and musical improvisations, has been totally inspiring. However, working during lockdown, with many emails and time difference, was tough! It has made me appreciate live playing on a whole new level. I however feel very happy that we created some very interesting ideas despite the difficulties.
Li-Chin: This lucky draw for my online collaborator has formed my experience, and my collaboration has been super awesome. Even though Francesca thought it was tough with emails and time differences, I thought this created another limitation which forms a different creative experience. In this experience, I can see even more possibilities in art-making.
Q: The concept for your final work was “finding peace in chaos”. What led you to this theme and can you talk about how you used the instruments available to communicate this concept?
Li-Chin: We are all currently experiencing a collective worldwide chaos, so we hope to spread peace through music. We used Double Pendulum Theory to enhance our imaginations and to work around a shared concept. We started with Francesca composing with recordings of my traditional sheng techniques and then I responded to what she composed through improvisation.
Francesca: It was difficult to avoid the feelings of uncertainty and chaos that the pandemic had caused, so we embraced it. To kickstart ideas, we looked at the Double Pendulum Theory – a rich dynamic behaviour arising from sensitivity to initial conditions. This helped shape sounds that seemingly pass from ‘chaos to peace’ and back, ad infinitum. I manipulated Li-Chin’s sheng sound clips in addition to playing violin, viola & musical saw.
Q: In what ways has the project influenced how you view the process of collaboration?
Francesca: When working remotely, I think you have to use a bit of ‘sixth sense’ to make up for the fact you’re not in the room together. You collaborate as usual whilst using extra listening skills, so that you move in parallel as you’re creating.
Li-Chin: I agree with what Francesca mentioned about the sixth sense. Due to our limitations, we relied even more on each other responding or feeding back to only what is there in sound. The process was full of adventures, which makes the experience even more unique.
Q: As a project designed to be a creative space for women, how do you feel that impacted your experience of creating work? Were there any significant differences compared to other projects you have been involved with?
Li-Chin: For me, the main difference in this collaboration is the mediations. I had to record on my own then send it to my collaborator, Francesca. We would then converse through music, rather than discussing details in person. There were less struggles in hesitation, and more instinctive decision-making to see if I liked where it was going. I was also very happy to meet so many great female musicians in this collaboration.
Francesca: I didn’t experience any significant differences in comparison to other collaborative projects. I was very happy to work alongside some amazing female musicians, and happy to meet people’s different characters on a creative & personal level.
Q: Following the collaboration, are there any new ideas, concepts or ways of working that you would like to explore in the future?
Francesca: The sounds that Li-Chin can make on the sheng are amazing! I personally don’t think we have a comparable instrument in the UK, so I felt really lucky to enter this rich new sound world. I definitely want to work more on manipulating and editing acoustic sounds to create an organic/digital hybrid sound world.
Li-Chin: Really glad to have met Francesca from the UK. She’s like a musical magician who enriches my world with musical diversity. I look forward to making more wonderful music together in the future.
Francesca Simmons http://www.francescasimmons.com
Li-Chin Li https://lichinli.art
Project curated by Women in Sound Women on Sound (WISWOS)
& Ting Shuo Hear Say.
Sponsored by Connections Through Culture grant of the British
Council and National Culture and Arts Foundation in Taiwan.
About the Author
Chloe Knibbs is a composer and sound artist exploring storytelling, theatricality and sidelined voices with a particular emphasis on feminist perspectives. Included in the British Music Collection, her work has been featured on BBC Radio 3 and performed by the Riot Ensemble, Birmingham Opera Company and the Hebrides Ensemble. She is currently undertaking a PhD in Composition at the University of York, UK. https://britishmusiccollection.org.uk/composer/chloe-knibbs