The Symphony Behind the Fabric, 2020
Media: woven fabric, digital synthesized image, video
This project explores the woven fabric as a map, and as a score; linking it through time, labor and sound to space. The music is created entirely by the structure of woven fabric. The structure includes different numbers of harnesses, tie-ups and orders to hit the treadle. To create different patterns of the fabric, a weaver must need to set up the warp for the loom, design the tie-up box, and confirm the order that their feet hit the treadle. And this form of structure can be written in numbers, translated into a musical score, and then “weaved” into a piece of music. The music hidden in the cloth represents the labor performed by the weavers, so the score here is the evidence of intense labor.
The intention of this project is about to explore the relationship of sound and weaving, virtual/abstract and physical, technology and tradition, new and old. It is about how fabric provides a new way to manipulate sound and how to expand our listening ability. It developed a new composition technique and open a doorway for listening to the wider community.
Behind the project:
As I spent more time in the weaving studio, I noticed that there is both visible and invisible labor involved in the process. In order for a weaver to create a piece of fabric on the floor loom, they need to step on the treadle with their feet, and also shuttle back and forth with their hands. The process is very similar to create music with a piano. This led me to start thinking about the transition between labor and music, and the transition between weaving and music. How does music get visualized with fabric? If labor is invisible, do we imply that it does not exist? How can we represent time-consuming labor into music?
Murray Schafer talked about ‘flat line’ in his book Tuning the World. The flat continuous line in sound has been everywhere in our world since the industrial revolution. The ‘flat line’ represents continuous sounds whereas the majority of sounds were interrupted in our early society. The flat line was extended to give the pitched tone after the electric revolution as well. Moreover, I also became fascinated by the visualized paper score, which was developed in the Polish Experimental Sound Studio. The score became visualized by drawing and lines, with the lines representing standardized, continuous time. Meanwhile, the woven fabric was woven thread by thread, line by line, and this included countless hours and labor, so the thread here also became the evidence of time. Thus, to me the concept of ‘flat line’ is pretty similar to the yarn used to weave, they both represent continuous time.