Monash University Toggle Search

Samson Young: Real Music

8 July – 14 November 2020

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

Talbot Rice Gallery, The University of Edinburgh, 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.


Real Music will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue co-published with Koenig Books, London. Designed by Stuart Geddes and Žiga Testen, it features contributions by Stefan Bilbao, Alexandra Chang, Charlotte Day, Tessa Giblin, Alexander Rehding, Joel Stern and Samson Young.

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.

Image: Samson Young, Possible Music #2, 2019, installation view, Real Music, Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh, 2019. Photo: Sally Jubb

Related Programs