Interview by L. Valena
Can you describe to me what you responded to?
“Attempting the Impossible” by Rene Magritte
When you set out to make a piece of music in response to this painting, how did you begin that process?
This painting speaks to me. I feel most of the time, people either judge you, or see you just from the outside, and not the inside. And, that’s the first impression I had when I saw this painting, after my first reaction- that the woman is beautiful. I wanted to make a piece that shows the contrast between the perspective of the man, and the woman, who is crying inside, “You don’t really see my inside beauty- just the outside.”
Yeah, that male gaze is pretty crazy, isn’t it?
It could also go either way- the model could be a man. It’s just that in this piece the subject is a man painting a woman.
Can you tell me about your process? How do you translate those feelings into music?
I got the idea quickly, because I was thinking about something creepy- from the woman’s side. I was trying to find intervals and sound that fit that creepy feeling. It’s so much like- she’s crying, but meanwhile I still want her to sort of say “When I used to be a child in my family, I was treated like a princess, right? But then, when I go out of that society, the man doesn’t treat me that way.” So then, I want her to sing kind of a lullaby. So actually, it’s written like a lullaby- it’s written in 6:8, it’s sort of like rocking herself- singing a lullaby to herself while she’s crying.
Is she singing to her child-self?
Yes. She’s sort of lamenting, and sad. And crying- I used to be a precious thing, and now the men treat me the same way. Or, do they see me how my loved ones see me? In the beginning it was a male singing. I was trying to create a sort of dreamy fear. The man is dreaming, oh, I’m going to get this beautiful woman and she’s so beautiful. So he’s singing all these words, praising her, but then with the harp sound I wanted it to be dreamy so I used harp. But meanwhile I wanted it to be really creepy, so I added some really creepy bass underneath. It’s really creepy. One part of the reactions to the painting is also about dating apps' "Swipe left, swipe right." If you look at social media, people judge you on your appearance. Like, how beautiful you look, and that’s sort of related.
How does this work relate to the rest of your music, if at all?
It’s not really related to any of my other work- it stands alone.
Did you play all the instruments?
Yeah. I even sung the male part!
Oh my god you’re wild.
I changed the voice! You can kind of use the music editor to change the sound of the voice. And sometimes, when you make a mistake, and it works. If a perfect male singer came, it would have been too perfect.
Call Number: Y1VA | Y2MU.chaLa
Pianist/composer Kai-Ching Chang likes to explore the possibility of sound to capture emotion and feeling on the subjects. Taiwanese and Bostonian.