"Landscapes," album leaf by Huang Binhong.IMAGE COURTESY OF ELNA TSAO WITH SUPPORT FROM THE MOZHAI FOUNDATION
Painting Lost Landscapes, Spiritual and Physical, with a Sonic Brush
Lei Liang - A Thousand Mountains, A Million Streams
Program Note: I always wanted to create music as if painting with a sonic brush. I think in terms of curves and lines, light and shadows, distances, the speed of the brush, textures, gestures, movements and stillness, layering, blurring, coloring, the inter-penetration of ink, brushstrokes, energy, breath, spatial resonance, spiritual vitality, void and emptiness. A Thousand Mountains, A Million Streams meditates on the loss of landscapes of cultural and spiritual dimensions. The work implies an intention to preserve and resurrect parallel landscapes - both spiritual and physical – and sustain a place where we and our children can belong. Using a sonic brush, I paint an inner journey: A landscape emerges out of darkness, illuminated by an artist’s inner vision; distant contours, shapes, hints of color, and emptiness. As the viewer draws closer and closer to the landscape, lines and human presence begin to emerge, sounds to resonate, until we become one with each of its brush-strokes and ink splashes, with its every breath. The mountains are breathing, singing and roaring. The landscape vibrates, pulsates and dances; it takes flight; it stirs, swells, rises, grinds, surges, stretches and blooms; trembling, jolting, and collapsing, it breaks into fragments. ... Rain – drops and drops of rain – returns, to heal the landscape in ruin. A prayer, a resurrection, the rain brings life back to the landscapes, and it regains its gentle heartbeat.
Photo: Thomas Oord
Review in NY Times "Over 30 minutes, the work unfurls a fluid stream of instrumental colors, from shimmering filaments of sound to broad sighing gestures that build with unrelenting momentum into muscular blocks of dark matter. A series of brutal percussive slashes leads to scorched silence. In the end, droplets of sound evoke a fragile rebirth.
The work is intended as a reflection on the man-made destruction of both natural landscapes and cultural ecosystems, and highlights the power of art to preserve them — at least in memory. Mr. Liang teaches at the University of California at San Diego and has collaborated with scientists on innovative ways to record the sounds of Pacific Ocean coral reefs and Arctic fauna.
“We have the external world that we need to protect,” he said in the interview. At the same time, he warns against the kind of self-inflicted damage to a culture’s spiritual heritage that he feels left lasting wounds in his native China: “There is also an internal world that we need to nurture, because it can vanish very rapidly.”