Meet GayBird: China's Experimental Music Mastermind Crafts Homemade Instruments And "Digitial Hugs"

Leung Kei-chuek (a.k.a. GayBird) is a Hong Kong-based musician best known for his work as the creative director and composer for famous Cantonese pop stars such as Anthony Wong, Sammi Cheung and Miriam Yeung. When he is not making pop hits, GayBird also collaborates with local new media artists and musicians to create experimental electronic music that pushes the boundary beyond pop into unusual and unfamiliar terrain. Recently, GayBird was awarded Best Electronic Music Artist at the Chinese Music Media Awards for an album he recorded during his wildly innovative “Digital Hug” concerts.

For the “Digital Hug” performances, GayBird draws upon just about every resource and experimental technique afforded to a contemporary electronic music composer—he has custom-made instruments that he himself designed, an interactive audiovisual installation, video mapping, custom-made iPad apps that are used to program the music and, ever electronic concert’s pièce de résistance, a dancing robot. GayBird debuted the multimedia sensory spectacle a little over a year ago, telling us about his ambitions of taking the show on the road, which he’s finally getting to do with his first international performance at FILE Festival in Brazil on July 17 and 18.

Check out a clip of “Digital Hug” above to get just a small taste of what this performance is all about.

We caught up with GayBird again to film a documentary about this dynamic musician and asked him to give us a brief tour of the instrumental inventions he uses in “Digital Hug”:

Organic Rainbow is not only a stage set but also an interactive sound installation. While regular rainbows have seven colors, the “Organic Rainbow” has eight! Light sensors installed in the pipes allow the performer to control the flow of colors and musical notes by covering the pipe openings.

Concept: GayBird, Exterior design: Issac Wong, Sensors programming: Jeff Wong, Video mapping: Jeff Wong, Dan Fong

Crispy Cloud is a special guitar designed with the contemporary new media electronic musician in mind. Whereas a standard acoustic guitar has six strings and a resonator, this custom-made cloud-shaped guitar has more a touchscreen device and more than 70 different buttons, resulting in infinite settings and sound effect combinations.

Design and production: GayBird, The Edge.

Spinning Air is the most inventive of the instruments in the series, making use of the underutilized “spinning motion” as a control mechanism for making sound. Spinning Air requires the musician to turn the rotational handle to precise positions, together with a push button these different positions determine the sound and effects.

Concept: GayBird, Hamlet Lin, Design & Production: Hamlet Lin

Singing Face is an iPad app that was designed specifically for this performance. Touching different parts of the triangulated face of the wearer represented on the iPad screen will trigger different facial expressions and produce various corresponding sounds.

Design & Programming: Henry Chu

Photos courtesy of GayBird.