Hong Kong composer Leung Kei-chuek is the creative director for Canton pop stars like Anthony Wong, Sammi Cheung and Miriam Yeung. He is also the main member of the indie music label Peoples Mountain Peoples Sea and performs under the name Gaybird. His The Grid of Elasticity is one of his most remarkable projects we’ve seen and was a memorable presentation/performance at last year’s panel discussion at The Creators Project Beijing event. His unique performance style and custom-made instruments make GayBird a musical act unlike any other. Working as a music director, composer and producer for over 100 concerts, Leung just completed his Master in Philosophy degree with a focus on music interface at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong.
Now, GayBird is preparing a new media concert in Hong Kong, and he spoke with The Creators Project about his experiments, creative process and extensive preparation for the “Digital Hug.”
Looking back on your past works, how would you define your musical style?
GayBird: I am a composer and I try my best to give colors to my music. The word “color” here means musical diversity spread through different layers. On one hand, my music tends to be more academic and experimental. On the other, it sounds like pop music. My style is a convergence between these two.
You do experimental works and explore new possibilities in music making. Meanwhile, you are also working as a creative director for Canton pop stars. What is the relationship between these two activities? Do you find yourself making any compromises?
I do not think these two activities are opposites. One doesn’t necessarily compromise the other. My inspiration for experimental music might come from pop music and vice versa. These characteristics both influence “Made by Gaybird” music.
Can you tell us how you first started to make your custom instruments?
In the 10 years I have been involved with the music industry, I have always been interested in new things and have been trying to explore new possibilities for composing and performing. The first instrument I made was a Midi controller. There were many kinds of Midi controllers already on the market, however, I was never satisfied with their interface and functionality, so I made a Midi controller that fit my operations and performance habits. I kept following these parameters while making other DIY instruments. To design and produce a tool or an instrument completes not only my needs, but the creative process of music making.
What can we expect from your upcoming concert, “Digital Hug”?
In this concert, I will combine the two different styles—experimental and pop. They will blend into one. The theme for the concert is “New media music experiment” and I will only use new invented instruments.
This concert gathers many local new media designers and artists like XEX GRP, Henry Chu, Joseph Chan, and Hamlet Lin. I collaborated with all these artists to create many of the instruments for the concert. Honhim from XEX GRP designed a guitar tree for the stage, the Sining Face app was developed by Henry Chu, Joseph and I designed Crispy Clouds, Spining Airwas made by me and Hamlet. And Dam and Jason from XEX GRP will be in charge of the visual effects.
“Digital Hug” will kick off this Friday and Saturday night in Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity.
It sounds like a total electronic and tech concert encompassing both the musical tools and the music itself. Do you think that you are placing more importance on the design and appearance of the performance and less on the musical content itself?
This is a very good question. Experimentation is the engine driving this concert—the research of how to make new music with new musical tools, while keeping the audibility and richness of the content. The main musical theme of this concert is “returning to nature.” Technology is developing really fast in our daily life, and we can save a lot of time with advanced technology, so I believe we could use this time and go back to mother nature, to feel and perceive the natural beauty. Besides the usage of electronic instruments, I did a lot of sampling for the music, including the sound of wind, waves etc. All of these sound elements will be used in “Digital Hug.”
How important do you think technology is for music composition?
Very important. There is no way to separate it from music making. Technology has a signifiant role in instrument making. For example, a piano from years ago cannot compete in quality with the ones from today. We have applied advanced technology in this field, things are getting perfect. For contemporary music, it is the same—computers and software play an essential role.
Besides “Digital Hug,” do you have other projects coming up in the near future?
“Digital Hug” is a rather difficult concert and I spent a year preparing it. I am about to present “Digital Hug” Part I this week, and I will make the Part II and Part III. This will be a long progress, but I hope to bring “Digital Hug” to other places besides Hong Kong.
Is there a technology you want to use in your future work?
Our lives are filled with touch screens and this somehow restrains our way of thinking. I hope touch screens can be developed into a three-dimensional space, and we would make music with three-dimensional interfaces.
Images courtesy of Leung Kei-chuek aka GayBird.