“An orrery of memory, an attempt to chart the composer's recollections and speculations about his musician grandfather who emigrated from China in the 1930s. What kind of music might they have made together?” —Christopher DeLaurenti, The Stranger
Songs of Dislocation
A vast number of Chinese – more than 40 million – live outside of their ancestral homeland. In North America, the influx of this diaspora is mixing and adapting its cultural heritage in New York (665,714), San Francisco (562,355), Toronto (486,300) and Vancouver (402,000).
With “Yiju,” Mandarin for “to migrate,” Present Sounds Recordings and composer Byron Au Yong offer an album of music both intimate and cinematic, humorous and contemplative, combining Au Yong’s broken musical lineage with a nod to the avant garde. “As the only composer in a family of overseas Chinese, it is with regret that I never studied music with my grandfather," he says.
“On this album, I devoted myself to assembling songs of dislocation – of memory and imagination. I hope listeners find moments to laugh, as well as reflect about migration, travel and their relationship to China.”
Selected track insights
- Daughter 女儿: “My grandparents fled China in 1938, leaving my first aunt. I wonder what lullaby my grandmother would have sung to the daughter they left behind.”
- Two Knives 两把刀: “In the 1940s, my grandfather was captured by Japanese soldiers. He pretended to be a farmer and joked with the soldiers until he was able to escape. They would have killed him if they knew he started the first Chinese school in the Mindanao Mountains of the Philippines.”
- A Man Is Falling 摔倒的人: “I used to think that migration was horizontal. After 9/11, I began to think of migration as vertical – of ancestors falling through the sky and landing on unsuspecting progeny. The news rarely covers family stories turned on their heads.”
Praise for ‘Yiju’
“Yiju is at times haunting and at times a rich cacophony of textures and emotion. It’s music for quiet, contemplative time. Each time I listen I hear something new.”Creative team
– Mary Coss, artist
“I don't know of any other contemporary work that both embraces and subverts its sentimentality to such compelling effect. I loved the way it unfolded, song by song, with each new piece catching me off guard, even as it evolved its themes and motifs.”
– Aaron Landsman, playwright
“Yiju 移居,” Byron Au Yong’s fourth album, features performances by musicians Karen Akada, Au Yong, Marc Collins, Marc delaCruz, Jessika Kenney, Gina Sala, Aiko Shimada and James Whetzel singing and playing er-hu (Chinese fiddle), string bass, drums, paper, chopsticks, cymbals and water gongs. “Yiju” was recorded by audio engineer Steve Ditore as part of a Jack Straw New Media Gallery residency in Seattle. Album design by Wing Fong.
Other albums by Byron Au Yong
Released by Present Sounds Recordings, 2012