Listening to the World (2007)
In 2007 I programmed and presented a three-month long series on World Music for Hong Kong’s Radio 4, which featured music from some 72 nations and trans-national peoples. The series was an incredible learning experience for me, and I listened to literally hundreds of recordings as I was planning the programs. The variety of sounds and styles of course fascinated me; but what most impressed me was the number and extent of the similarities. Whether these were due to some sort of ‘convergent evolution’ of musical style, or whether they hark back to a distant shared culture or innate cerebral wiring I am not qualified to say; but sometimes the similarities were literally shocking: for example, Texan country music singer Arthur Miles independently invented and recorded throat singing identical to that of the Mongolians. At the end of the series I wanted to create something that would sum up these similarities, and show the commonalities between people who seem so distant all too often in these times, and so I created this collage. While collecting the material—all from archival recordings—I realised that I had music from every continent but Antarctica. This lack bothered me, so I turned to the natural world for their music. Occasionally in the piece you may noticed the clucking of penguins, or synthesizer-like pitch sweeps of harp seals. Other than those few sounds, everything else is either a human voice or an acoustic instrument; there are no synthesizers or computer music used.
Listening to the World was first broadcast on Radio Television Hong Kong Radio 4 on November 25, 2007 on the eponymous program, and recieved it's concert premiere in February 2010 at the Ball State University New Music Festival in Muncie, Indiana..