Last Saturday, in partnership with Subjam, Meridian Space hosted a mesmerizing music performance featuring some of Beijing’s most talented improvised and experimental music creators (Liu Xinyu, Li Jianhong, Sheng Jie and Yan Jun), along with John Willton, another great performer hailing from Australia.
Together, they played a double set of Yan Yulong’s composition, Music for a Rectangular Space — a piece specially designed for the Workshop room of Meridian Space. From 5 to 6 pm, then from 8 to 9, a small group of spectators had the chance to witness a performance that will never be repeated again, a subtle mix of electronics, analogic music and acoustic instrumentals. Little did we think Meridian Space could become a shrine in which such offerings could be presented to the gods of sound!
The rectangle is a classic shape for a concert hall. A space constructed in that way is convenient to the artist, the public, the government, but it’s also accoustically suitable. It is purely functional, man-made, and designed to be of some use to the service industry, the administration, and so forth.
What if we looked at it from another angle, and started considering space as the recipient of a performance — or at least, as the reason of that performance? After all, we humans are born idolisers, so why couldn’t musicians and their public make a place of worship out of that rectangular space in which their performance is about to occur?
We found such a “shrine” near the National Art Museum, at Meridian Space, where a certain rectangular room is suspended in mid-air. It isn’t very big, and can only contain about thirty people; but as sound enters the room, reverberation causes everything to be amplified unexpectedly. The experience of unfamiliar spaces may create this kind of fleeting illusions.
This is a new concert room — despite the fact that it wasn’t designed as one. So let’s perform for it, perhaps in the hope of convincing it to play this role! However, “Music for a Rectangular Space” is no ordinary religious hymn: the “spirit” we worship here always answers all questions we may ask; its walls cannot ignore our requests. Indeed, the music we play for it can only be played together with it. It makes sense from the point of view of logic, and can be justified as the starting point of a performance: for this space is a spirit as well as a shrine, and we performers are simply attempting to explore what it may yield…
Clear-mindedness preceeds all of its opposite states. In other words, spirit and shrine are one, come into being together, and contain — even transform — each other. “I Am Sitting in a Room.” What a solemn occasion this is!