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Samson Young: Real Music

14 November – 12 December 2020

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

Talbot Rice Gallery, The University of Edinburgh

Acclaimed Hong Kong artist and composer Samson Young’s installations, performances, videos and works on paper—all vibrating with colour and sound—are studies of the impossible, the hypothetical and the all too real. Straddling experimental worlds of art and music and informed by intensive research processes, his artworks move us to look, listen and imagine, while drawing attention to how often our perception is blinkered.

Presented in partnership with Talbot Rice Gallery at the University of Edinburgh, the exhibition Real Music features an ambitious collaboration with 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 Young it is an opportunity to hear the impossible. The artist’s new series of installations titled Possible Music, 2018–, are the result of this encounter.

Possible Music #2, 2019, commissioned for the exhibition at Talbot Rice Gallery and MUMA, pushes the parameters of the NESS technology: How would a bugle sound, for instance, if it was activated by the fiery breath of a dragon, superheated to 300 degrees Celsius? Composing music for instruments that do not exist in reality, Young has created a 16-channel sound garden with sculptural forms alluding to a colossal, oversized trumpet emerging from the carpeted floor. Also created for Real Music, the video performance-lecture The world falls apart into facts, 2019, derives from the artist’s extensive research into the well-known Chinese folk song Molihua (Jasmine Flower). The exhibition also includes a new body of graphic scores on paper—Young’s transcriptions of sounds from Hong Kong riots in 2019—and the 12-channel sound installation Muted Situation #22: Muted Tchaikovsky’s 5th, 2018, commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney in 2018.

Image: Samson Young, Possible Music #2, 2019. Installation view, Samson Young: Real Music, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2020. Photo: Andrew Curtis

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VIDEO: Studio Arts, Exhibition Case Study, Samson Young, Real Music, 2020

An exhibition case study for Samson Young: Real Music, 2020

PODCAST: Samson Young, Real Music

Joel Stern (Liquid Architecture) joins Francis Parker (MUMA) for an open-ended conversation on the work of Samson Young focussing on the artist's conceptual approaches to questions of sound, listening, technology, history and material culture.

Installation Views

Project Partner and Supporters:

Samson Young logos


Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne
Edouard Malingue Gallery, Hong Kong
The NESS Project
St Cecilia’s Hall, the University of Edinburgh
The NESS Project was funded by the European Research Council, under grant number 2011-StG-279068-NESS.