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A Moving Sound

As an expat in Taipei, it can be difficult to know about the local music scene. Rarely are ticket websites in English and whilst Google Translate can be my best friend, I often discover something interesting only to realise the date has already gone. So, I was excited when Roma, the editor here at COT, asked me to take a deeper dive into Taiwan’s music scene. Enthusiastic to discover a new sound or learn more about the cultural traditions of Asian music, my first stop was to meet with Mia and Scott from the Taiwan performance group, A Moving Sound 聲動.

聲動 Vivid Life

The name A Moving Sound conjures up a myriad of references. In Mandarin it is 聲動 (Sheng Don), the literal translation being ‘life vivid’. Whether through Mia’s ebullient on-stage presence, the band’s beautiful outfits and use of Chinese instruments or the fact that the group are internationally renowned, the English and Mandarin names fit the group perfectly. The essence of the band’s sound is in their diversity, with songs using multiple dialects, often without words; Mia’s voice is an instrument in its own right. Their energy has been described by the international press as compelling, their music both new and traditional, and a balance between East and West. This feels reflective of my experience of the spirit of Taiwan, the modern co-existing with the historical, all wrapped up in a sense of pride for freedom and humanity.

A Moving Sound performing at Tai Da University, Taipei
A Moving Sound performing at Tai Da University, Taipei

 

Fire dancers, tap dancers, and actors

Mia Hsieh and Scott Prairie met in New York City and built a life together in Taiwan. Scott is from the US. Mia, although originally from mainland China, grew up in Taiwan during the Martial Law era. The group are a core collective of 5 but have performed with anything from 3 to 13 members. Mia’s background is in theatre and the dramatic arts. She tells me that they have been known to put on a show with fire dancers, tap dancers, even actors. Their passion is rooted in the audience experience. It seems that they move with the energy of the space, the atmosphere, and what the audience and performance require. 

Both Scott and Mia highlight the importance of the use of spiritual practices in their life and work. This allows them to be grateful, open and ignites their motivation.  Reflected in their performance it is why they are the leading Taiwanese World Music group currently on the international stage. When I go to a gig, I want to feel part of something. When the music connects with a deep emotion, that has been the most memorable for me.

A Moving Sound 2 Magdalena F on tour in London, England
A Moving Sound 2 Magdalena F on tour in London, England

East and West cultures

When Mia describes her performance, I couldn’t help feeling warmth towards her and her candid nature. She describes her music as a reflection of her personal growth, of her time spent in Eastern and Western cultures and this dichotomy. When she connected to singing it allowed her to express a deeper sense of emotion that is sometimes hidden in language. At concerts, she is often asked what language she is singing in, but she sees the music as larger than that. 

Drawing on influences from the natural world, time spent in indigenous communities, her past and her future, there appears to be an honesty to her voice that encourages an open curiosity. This is also reflected in the title of their album ‘Songs Beyond Words’. A rare gift, Mia conducts voice workshops in Taipei with one coming up in December 2023.

Traditional instruments in a modern style

The group is also celebrated for their creative use of traditional instruments in a modern style. Scott spoke of his music conservatory training, primarily in the French Horn. On arriving in Taiwan he was intrigued by Chinese traditional instruments. The group performs with both the Zhongruan, touted as a Chinese guitar and the Erhu as a Taiwanese fiddle. Scott described his improvisation process in creating the music as a co-creation. He starts with an initial composition, which is then built in layers like a cake, adding Mia’s vocals and developing their sound as one would a story. It is this commitment to their music as an artform that sets them apart from other musical styles. Taking elements from music, theatre and storytelling allows them to create a unique palette, often transcendental in its performance and one that is not to be missed.

Intrigued by this melting pot of influences, I intend to follow A Moving Sound. They tell me they have an exciting project next year with a New York based string quartet called ETHEL, followed by a US Tour in the Fall. Before that though, I will be catching them in Taiwan at their next gig on 3rd December 2023 in Hsinchu. Links to all of their info and events can be found below. 

https://www.amovingsound.com/en/
https://store.arcmusic.co.uk/songs-beyond-words.html
https://www.accupass.com/event/2309051440501696628622
https://forms.gle/ggd3ENGvomWSmtdR7
Gemma Green
Photo Credit: A Moving Sound

Gemma Green is a Taipei resident since January 2020. Gemma has a background in UK NGO management and community work, which has allowed her to use her time volunteering for a number of projects in Taiwan. Keen to learn more about Taiwanese society and its people she is passionate about writing, photography and the stories that are within us all.

 

 

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