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Samson Young: Real Music


Talbot Rice Gallery, The University of Edinburgh

Tessa Giblin, Director, Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh, and Charlotte Day, Director, MUMA

14 November – 12 December 2020

The first solo exhibition in the UK by acclaimed Hong Kong artist and composer, Samson Young, Real Music is an ambitious collaboration with the University of Edinburgh’s Next Generation Sound Synthesis (NESS) research group, who have developed pioneering software that can generate the sound of virtual instruments. For historians this offers the opportunity to hear lost objects, while for Samson Young it is an opportunity to hear the impossible.

A new series of installations entitled Possible Music, 2018–ongoing, are borne from this encounter, the artist composing music for instruments that do not exist in reality. 'Possible Music #2', commissioned for the exhibition at Talbot Rice Gallery and Monash University Museum of Art, pushes the parameters of this technology by orchestrating the effects of scale, temperature and force. How would a bugle sound, for instance, if it was activated by the fiery breath of a dragon, superheated to 300 degrees Celsius? Within Young’s 16-channel sound garden, a field of speakers sprout towards the cupolas overhead, while mixed media sculptural forms allude to a colossal, oversized trumpet emerging from the carpeted earth. This impossible rendition is complimented by a new body of work on paper, colourful, textured graphic scores.

Talbot Rice Gallery will also premier a new video performance- lecture by Young entitled 'The world falls apart into facts', generated from the artist’s extensive research into the Chinese folk song 'Molihua' (Jasmine Flower). Tracing its different versions and their claims to authenticity, this work is a genealogical telling of the song’s story, with the artist adopting an ironic ethnographic gaze. Accompanying this are a number of items that derive from Young’s exploration of the University of Edinburgh’s collections, including Pieter Neefs the Elder's 'Interior of a Cathedral' from the University’s Torrie Collection and a class of musical instruments often described as ‘tourist instruments’ held at St Cecilia’s Hall.

The exhibition will include 'Muted Situation #22: Muted Tchaikovsky’s 5th', 2018 (commissioned by Sydney Biennale in 2017) – a 12-channel sound installation - in which an orchestra performs the work on muted instruments. Tchaikovsky’s 5th is replaced with the startling and powerful sound of the orchestra itself – pulsing, heaving and expressive as a physical, concentrated body.

The exhibition has been curated by Tessa Giblin, Director of Talbot Rice Gallery, and Charlotte Day, Director of Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne. Real Music will tour to MUMA 2 May – 4 July 2020.

'Real Music' will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue available at Talbot Rice Gallery, Monash University Museum of Art and through Koenig Books. Designed by Stuart Geddes and Žiga Testen, with contributions by Stefan Bilbao, Alexandra Chang, Charlotte Day, Tessa Giblin, Alexander Rehding, Joel Stern and Samson Young.

Image: 'Possible Music # 2', 2019. Installation view 'Samson Young / Real Music', Talbot Rice Gallery, 2019. Courtesy Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh