Connecting Across Borders

24 students from 11 countries participated in this year’s SEADOM Congress held in Bangkok, Thailand from 15 to 17 March, creating performances through sound painting.

Article by Lim Wen Liang (BMus Year 1, Composition)

The 2018 SEADOM Congress featured the Sound Painting project that brought together students all over Southeast Asia, to create a 20-minute piece for a performance at Silpakorn University as well as the Prince Mahidol Hall. 24 students from 11 countries participated in the project led by Dr. Tim O’Dwyer and Mr. Dirk Stromberg  from LASALLE College of Arts Singapore. The performances featured both traditional instruments such as the Suling, Oud, Gendang and Ruan, as well as modern instruments including synthesisers and drumset.

 Above: A Sound Painting rehearsal at Mahidol College of Music led by Dr. Tim O’Dwyer

Above: A Sound Painting rehearsal at Mahidol College of Music led by Dr. Tim O’Dwyer

The Sound Painting project took the form of an on-the-spot composition, where each school contributed a piece of music to form a "palette" of sound for a "sound painter" to manipulate during the performance. We rehearsed for around 14 hours before the performance, during which we got accustomed to the "sound painter"'s signs, interspersed with some sightseeing and meals around Bangkok.

It was a positively enriching experience and in the words of one of the participants, Chiam Shan Li from Brunei, “The Sound Painting project has changed my life.” The creative process brought together musicians from different backgrounds and nationalities to work together, and we forged new friendships along the journey as well. Darren Tan from LASALLE in Singapore commented during the SEADOM Congress reflection session, “We’re not so different after all.”

 Above: Student participants of the Sound Painting project together with Justin Hegberg

Above: Student participants of the Sound Painting project together with Justin Hegberg

Although the performances were a success, some hurdles had to be overcome. One of the complexities of our ensemble was the variety of instruments that it contained, which we needed to balance. However, it was a great opportunity to experience such a melting pot of different cultures. In addition, we realised that we had different ways of approaching music-making, and were able to bridge our differences through sound painting. Mirzan Bin Mohd Isa from Malaysia mentioned at the open session, “As a traditional musician, we usually learn things aurally so reading from a score would have been difficult for me, but sound painting eliminated this.”

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Over the course of the project, we learned how to balance and rehearse the ensemble, as well as our sound palettes. We also learned how to listen out for one another, as well as to be ready to improvise on the spot. Through the Sound Painting project, we created a common language we could all speak equally fluently across our different cultural and musical backgrounds, and truly achieved our main goal as well as the theme of this year's SEADOM Congress - "Connecting Across Borders".

 Above: YST students with delegates from the SEADOM conference

Above: YST students with delegates from the SEADOM conference

Photo credits: Sulwyn Lok