Showing posts with label Video. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Video. Show all posts


Choral Work
for moving choir along the water

“... it’s hard to imagine that anyone walked away from TURBINE unchanged.”
—David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer


Leah Stein Dance Company and
Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia
at the Fairmount Water Works

June 27 & 28, 2015 · Sold Out

In TURBINE, the audience is immersed with music and movement in an outdoor performance along the water. The project is being created for the 200th Anniversary of the Fairmount Water Works—an urban environmental center on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia—and is available for other civic waterways.

Creative Team
Byron Au Yong, composer
Leah Stein, artistic director/choreographer
Alan Harler, conductor/music director

Performed by Leah Stein Dance Company and Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia

with assistant conductors Ryan Tibbetts, Austen Wilson
and soloists Jennifer Beattie, Shahara M. Benson, Jean Bernard Cerin, Josh Hartman, Bob Rodgers, Alice McKillip Thornburgh, Rebecca Thornburgh, Ryan Tibbetts, Austen Wilson

Duration: variable (circa one hour)
Commissioned and performed by Leah Stein Dance Company and Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia
More about the lyrics compiled and edited by Byron Au Yong

Audio Interviews
“One of a kind performance at the Waterworks”
WHYY NewsWorks

“How many arms does it take to conduct the Mendelssohn Club Choir?”
WRTI Radio

"Soyoung Shin interviews Byron Au Yong"
KCHUNG her variety

Program Note Excerpt
Alan Harler and Leah Stein brought me to the Fairmount Water Works in October 2013. The park and historic plaza were alive with people enjoying the autumn day next to the glistening waterway. Appropriately translated as “hidden river,” the Schuylkill turned from peaceful to terrifying when the following spring, the water crested at nearly 14 feet. The May 2014 flood brought a deluge to the Water Works. A place that was historically the source of clean water became filled with debris. 
TURBINE draws upon accounts from the heyday of the Fairmount Water Works in the early 19th century. Visitors marveled at human ingenuity building “miraculous mechanical… cylinders and pistons” that worked with nature to provide “clear and bright as crystal, a cup for the thirsty.” This text is filtered through a 21st century reality to produce lyric fragments.

Migration as well as water molecules influence the music. Voices seep in and out of the sounds along the river. These include the noise of traffic and trains. Musical motifs connect and disconnect in a free molecular flow. 
According to the World Health Organization, a child dies from a water-related disease every minute. More than twice the population of the United States lives without access to safe water. How can we turn despair and rage into wisdom? 
Singing and listening to a river in the middle of a city is a step towards “justice journeying to harbor.” A turbine takes turbulence and transforms it into potential energy. Together we can find ways to ensure that the 750 million people around the world who lack access to safe water are given a chance to survive.
Byron Au Yong
February 2015
Program Notes


Video: Byron Au Yong Interview

Video: Alan Harler Interview

Video: Leah Stein Interview

Video: Deenah Loeb Interview

Preview Quote
“Site-specific virtuoso choreographer Leah Stein and composer Byron Au Yong create an experience with performers and audience moving throughout the entire site at the Fairmount Water Works.”
Merilyn Jackson, The Philadelphia Inquirer

More Press
· Peter Crimmins. One of a kind performance at the Waterworks. WHYY NewsWorks
· Kelsey Menehan. Commissioning Journeys: When the Place Shapes the Music. Chorus Ameria
· Miriam Seidel. Leah Stein, Dance AlchemistMiriam Seidel Blog
· David Patrick Stearns. Getting Creative Down by the RiversideThe Philadelphia Inquirer
· David Patrick Stearns. How many arms does it take to conduct the Mendelssohn Club Choir? WRTI
· Lewis Whittington. Stein’s water-dances fuel TurbineThe Dance Journal

· Bibliography and Source Text for Lyrics
· Fairmount Water Works
· Musical Score
· PhillyH2O
· Turbine Residency, October 2014

Special Thanks
Lora Allen, Sonja Bontrager, Alan Harler, Hermitage Artist Retreat, Michelle Hollander, Adam Levine (Philadelphia Water Department), Deenah Loeb (City Parks Association), Janelle McCoy, Edward McNally, Leah Stein, Leah Stein Dance Company, Library Company of Philadelphia, Carolyn Linarello, Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia, Michael Moore, New Music USA, Philadelphia Cultural Fund, Gabrielle Revlock, Saechew/Tolsma Household, Amanda Schkeeper, Skip Stotesbury, Thornburgh Family, Ryan Tibbetts, Rich Tolsma Productions, Sharon Torello, Schuylkill Banks, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Richard Tolsma, William Penn Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, Karen Young (Fairmount Water Works)

Major support for TURBINE was provided by William Penn Foundation. In addition, TURBINE was supported by New Music USA, made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Helen F. Whitaker Fund, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts.

Turbine Lyrics

Video: About the Lyrics

18th and 19th century text compiled by Byron Au Yong (bibliography below)
1A By the Trees
the stream there
round your steps

1B In the Gazebo 
whispering air
timid call

1C Near the River 
beneath the sky

1D Around the Plaza 
balmy zephyr
with slow steps
2.1 Gilman 
through dark
feel the cool
wheels rolled
iron arms
feel the cool
breaking out
2.1A Dickens 
jerked about
turned on
poured off

2.1B Twain 
first bridge
fine dam

2.1C Power 
welling through the pipes deluging thirsty streets 

2.1D Finch 
right lines
right angles

2.1E Murray 
peaceful city 
2.2 Quadrille Chorus 
Chestnut, Walnut, Spruce, and Pine 
2.2 Quadrille Caller 
right & left four
balance & turn
ladies chain
half promenade
forward & back
cross over
chassez de chassez
back again
all round
back to back
read to the right
chassez out
form the ring
all forward
back turn partners
two give right
cross over two
six hands round
turn partners
in a simple handsome building
a wall of solid rock
two points give passage to a stream
clear and bright as crystal
in a stone basin: a cup for the thirsty traveller
inexhaustible supply
from this reservoir 
cylinders and pistons
miraculous mechanical
34 Pumps
Check Valve Seat
Seat Ring Sewer Valve
Ring for Compressor
3-25 Piston Ring
Buck-eye Engine
8 Filling Flange
Rachet on Shop Crane
6 Joint Bureau
M.G.D. Motor
4.1-4.2 A Drop (Story Telling) 
gentle friend
a hidden stream
goes playfully 
haunting thoughts
beneath the glowing sun 
a drop pulses
then another and darker
torn one by one and sold 
4.3 The Guilty (Sadness) 
if the clouds
the guilty 
how then
the fluttering wings
the voice of grief

lost ones
beseeching breath
poured out 
4.4 Moon (Moonlight) 
faintly glimmering 
how soft the beam
the gloom of night

star spangled glory
whisper to me
tell what awaits 
4.5 Flood (Schuylkill) 
deep and shaded pool
old trees lift their tall heads against the sky

mournful echo
when the hush
steals the calm 
oh how one charmed word will start a thousand breathing memories 
4.6 Transition (ASTRÆA) 
loved by stars
a granite ledge
to gaze from the sea’s edge
there for purging light
there for purifying storms
its depths reflect all forms
justice journeying to harbor
afloat fair city
through the gathering like a strong giant that has just received the breath of life
I shall never forget

ding ding ding
what have we here?
a ruddy face with a clear honest eye
and the noble ship breaks proudly through the water…
· Critical and Poetical Works, John Penn (1797) 
· The Poetry of Traveling in the United States, Caroline Howard Gilman (1838)
· American Notes for General Circulation, Charles Dickens (1913)
· Mark Twain’s Letters, Mark Twain (1853-1866)
· Impressions of America, Tyrone Power (1836)
· Travels in the United States of America and Canada, John Finch (1833)
· Travels in North America, Charles Augustus Murray (1834-1836)
· The Fairmount Quadrilles, John Hewitt (1836)
· Gazetteer of the United States of America, John Hayward (1854) 
· Travels in the United States, Alexander Mackay (1846-1847)
· Domestic Manners of Americans, Francis Trollope (1832)
· Transatlantic Sketches, Captain J.E. Alexander (1833)
· Inscriptions on Templates for Turbine Parts, Philadelphia Water Department (1920s)
· Essays, Philanthropic and Moral, Elizabeth Margaret Chandler (1836)
· Early Poems, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) 
· American Notes for General Circulation, Charles Dickens (1913)
Video: History of the Fairmount Water Works with Adam Levine

Special Thanks
Adam Levine (Philadelphia Water Department), Karen Young (Fairmount Water Works), Leah Stein, Library Company of Philadelphia

Mo Sheng 墨声 Ink Sound

Chamber Music/Exhibition Performance
for string quartet

Mò Shēng 墨声 Ink Sound relates the simplicity and density of sound to the amount of ink on a brush. The string quartet plays with a calligraphic impulse, inspired by Pan Gongkai’s Exhibition.

Trailer Video

Duration: variable (circa 18 minutes)
Instrumentation: two violins, viola, cello
Premiered by the Passenger String Quartet
Commissioned by the Frye Art Museum

Program Notes
Mò Shēng 墨声 Ink Sound was created was created and performed on the occasion of the Frye Art Museum’s exhibition 潘公凯 Pan Gongkai: Withered Lotus Cast in Iron.

A contemporary master of Chinese ink painting and president of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Pan creates large-scale, site-specific ink paintings without interruption, in sessions that often last more than 12 hours. He views this physically demanding process as a key performative element of his work. This is the first exhibition of Pan’s art in the United States.

As a Chinese American composer based in Seattle, Au Yong has a complex relationship with China. His new music translates Pan’s Exhibition to evoke a local resonance. The music will be premiered by the Passenger String Quartet in the Frye Art Museum galleries.

Musicians use techniques that vary the bowing pressure, similar to the textures of ink density that respond to both Pan’s art as well as the exhibition environment through the shifting spatial placement of the musicians. Au Yong’s notation contains precise musical gestures that can be read in any order by the string quartet, similar to how an ink brush painting can be experienced.
Audience Quotes
“While listening, I was in another world. Felt like I could “touch” the sound.”

“The interplay of the instruments/parts was particularly gratifying.”

“I was able to see and hear Pan Gongkai differently.”


Mò Shēng 墨声 Ink Sound was commissioned by the Frye Art Museum and funded by the Frye Foundation with the support of Frye Art Museum members and donors. Seasonal support is provided by Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and ArtsFund. Music was composed for the Passenger String Quartet to perform on the occasion of the exhibition 潘公凯 Pan Gongkai: Withered Lotus Cast in Iron, curated by Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker. The score was completed during a residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat.

· Pan Gongkai: Withered Lotus Cast in Iron at Frye Art Museum
· Pan Gongkai: Dispersion and Generation at Zhejiang Art Museum

Turbine Residency

From October 12-26, 2014, I worked with dancers & singers, researched the history of the Fairmount Water Works and met with Philadelphia experts. This was in preparation for TURBINE, a site-responsive performance co-commissioned by Leah Stein Dance Company and the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia for the 200th anniversary of this historic site.

Video: Planning Turbine

· on-site singing & movement studies with Leah Stein Dance Company
· attended Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia Big Sing rehearsal at Girard Chapel

Round Table
· Byron Au Yong, composer
· Michelle Hollander, water resources engineer
· Adam Levine, consultant, Philadelphia Water Department
· Deenah Loeb, executive director, City Parks Association
· Leah Stein, choreographer
· Karen Young, executive director, Fairmount Water Works

Visual Culture Program at the Library Company of Philadelphia
· illustrations & photographs of the Water Works
· found article that talked about the necessary "din of industry"
· noted how smokestacks and pastoral scenes co-existed in paintings

Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center
· water treatment, hands-on displays, historic details, ecological action steps
· quotes from Charles Dickens and Frances Trollope

Philadelphia Water Department (Philly H20)
· interviewed author/historical consultant Adam Levine
· learned about newspaper clippings & historic cartoons
· received copies of sheet music inspired by the Water Works from the 1800s

Philadelphia Wastewater Treatment Plant
· visit with Adam Levine and Leah Stein
· gathered wood templates from the 1920s
· saw incoming sewage area
· received Imagining Philadelphia: Travelers' Views of the City from 1800 to the Present

River Boat Ride (Schuylkill Banks)
· named Pennsylvania's 2014 River of the Year
· Schuylkill feels more like a canal with concrete sides

· Eiko: A Body in a Station at 30th Street Station
· Kenny Endo, Kaoru Watanabe, Sō Percussion at Princeton

Guest Teaching & Site Visit
· Science Leadership Academy
· Sidney Hillman Apartments

The Water Works was the first urban public water supply system in the United States. From my visit, I realized that Philadelphia and Seattle are built between two waterways. Moreover, both cities protect and restore urban watersheds. It's great to know these cities advocate for clean water as a civic obligation and human right.

BD Wong on NBC

Thanks BD for giving a shout-out to the music.

“BD Wong stars in The Orphan of Zhao at La Jolla Playhouse” Interview at NBC News San Diego.

The Orphan of Zhao

Rehearsals started earlier this week for The Orphan of Zhao (趙氏孤兒). Here's the sign on our rehearsal room. The ensemble songs are definitely not quiet!

The new production runs at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, from June 4 - 29, 2014, and La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, from July 8 - August 3, 2014. Here's the trailer...

Piano Concerto

Media Installation
audio surround, projection mapping sculpture, video portraits
Playing the piano can oftentimes be lonely. Recognizing this, composer Byron Au Yong and artist Susie J. Lee gather pianists to share stories. Thinking about the concerto as a form for a soloist and ensemble, Au Yong and Lee consider each pianist as a soloist and an ensemble member.

Lee films the pianists. Au Yong provides an open notation Piano Concerto score. 11 pianists rehearse together, then record. This results in an intimate installation of solo video portraits and an ensemble audio sculpture.
Video Portrait Excerpts
Duration: variable
Instrumentation: concert grand piano
Installation: 4-channel audio installation with 4-channel video projection; one HDTV video portrait
Commissioned by the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, 2014

Premiered at the CounterCurrent Festival, Bermac Arts Center, April 2014
Video portraits shown at:
· (Im)materiel, Headlands Center for the Arts, January/February 2015
· New Strands Festival, American Conservatory Theatre, January 2016

Video: Media Sculpture

Creative Team
Byron Au Yong, composer and co-creator
Susie J. Lee, social sculptor and co-creator

Soyoung Shin, cinematographer, photographer
Will Gibbs, technical director
Afshin Farzadfar, recording engineer
Robb Kunz, audio mastering
Jared Bender, sculpture fabrication
Joe Freeman, photographer

Houston Pianists
Sonya Bandouil · Jason Castaneda · Stephen Fierros · Lisa E. Harris · Timothy Hester · Darrell Jenkins · Saun Cheng Lee · Andreea Mut · Robert Rhodes · Linda Singer · Jenni Rebecca Stephenson


Press Quote
“In January, they found 11 Houston musicians of varying abilities and styles to play Au Yong’s concerto, including a professor of piano at the Moores School of Music, a lawyer who played to support himself through school and still keeps a piano in one of his three offices, an opera singer who plays improvisationally, and a brother and sister who have played piano since they were children, but not professionally.”
Molly Glentzer, Houston Chronicle
Piano Concerto–Houston
  • February/March: Individual Interviews of pianists in their home or studio
  • March: Public Gathering with all 11 participants to meet, share stories & rehearse
  • March: Audio/Video Recording of pianist portraits
  • April: Installation presented at the Mitchell Center for the Arts CounterCurrent Festival
Byron Au Yong and Susie Lee
Susie J. Lee and Byron Au Yong · Photo © 2014 by Joe Freeman
Special Thanks
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, Karen Farber, Frye Art Museum, David Garcia, Katrina Hess, Kerry Inman, LD Systems, Tiffany Lin, Kimball McMahan, Bryan Miller, Frank Minoru Phillips, MicroSearch Pro Video Sales & Rental, Moores School of Music, Nicole Romano, Tom Stiles, Chris Strompolos, Teruhiko Toda, Margret Truax, University of Houston, Rick Valentine, Emily C. Watts

Stuck Elevator

Chamber Opera / Music Theater
for voices, violin, cello, piano, percussion, bicycle wheel, soundtrack

“... one of the more ambitious, listenable modern scores in contemporary musical theater.”
Andrew Beck, Hartford Arts Examiner

Stuck Elevator is a comic-rap-scrap-metal-opera prompted by the real-life experience of a Chinese food deliveryman trapped in an elevator for 81 hours.

Video Trailer

for more media, visit

Creative Team
Byron Au Yong, composer
Aaron Jafferis, librettist

Duration: 81 minutes
Cast: 5 actors, 4 musicians

 · Guang 洸 (tenor)
 · Míng 茗/Ensemble (soprano)
 · Marco/Ensemble (tenor)
 · Wáng Yuè 王岳/Nephew/Ensemble (baritone)
 · Zhong Yì 忠佚/Boss’Wife/Ensemble (bass-baritone)

 · violin, cello, piano, percussion, soundtrack

American Conservatory Theatre
San Francisco, April 2013

International Festival of Arts & Ideas
Long Wharf Theatre
New Haven, June 2013

(for a list of the creative team & previous performers, visit Stuck Elevator Events)

Producer Contact
Thomas O. Kriegsmann
+1 (917) 386-5468
tommy (at)
Audio Demo

2013 Outstanding Original Musical, Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
2013 Outstanding Principal Actor in a Musical, Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
2013 Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award
2013 NEA Art Works Award

Press Quotes
“Audacious, compelling and hugely imaginative.”
Leo Stutzin, Huffington Post
“... claustrophobic and expansive, intimate and existential, personal and political all at once.”
Frank Rizzo, Variety

“A vibrant opera-musical theater hybrid with a story both personally compelling and eye-opening.”
Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle
Words on Plays
A.C.T.'s in-depth performance guide includes interviews with the creative team + specific details about immigration related to Stuck Elevator (PDF)

Define American
a media + culture campaign that holds conversations about immigration and citizenship in America

(for more links about the production + research, visit Stuck Elevator Resources)

Stuck Elevator was developed, in part, by the Sundance Institute Theatre Program with additional support from the Sundance Institute’s Time Warner Fellowship Program

Stuck Elevator is a project of Creative Capital, and was developed, in part, with the assistance of the Asian/Pacific/American Institute artist-in-residence program at NYU, New York Theatre Workshop Residency at Dartmouth's Hopkins Center for the Arts, and Yale Institute for Music Theatre

Touring was made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Theater Pilot, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Support for earlier versions from 4Culture, Artist Trust, API/2, City of Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Hand2Mouth’s Risk/Reward New Performance Festival, Museum of Chinese in America, On the Boards’ NW New Works Festival, Theatre Off Jackson & Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

Arts & Ideas

International Festival of Arts & Ideas presents

in association with Long Wharf Theatre

June 20-22, 25-29 at 8pm
June 22-23, 26, 29 at 2pm

Music by Byron Au Yong
Libretto by Aaron Jafferis
Directed by Chay Yew
Music Directed by Frederick Alden Terry

Julius Ahn, Marie-France Arcilla, Francis Jue, Raymond Lee, Joel Perez

Shenghua Hu (violin), Frederick Alden Terry (cello), Byron Au Yong (piano), Lee Caron (percussion)

Daniel Ostling Scenic Designer
Mikhail Fiksel Sound Designer
Myung Hee Cho Costume Designer
Ted Boyce-Smith Associate Lighting Designer
Alexandra Friedman Associate Scenic Designer
Naya Chang Assistant Director

Stuck Elevator at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas presented with support from: NEA Arts Works, NEFA, Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven, Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven

Stuck Elevator was developed and premiered by the American Conservatory Theatre (Carey Perloff, Artistic Director), San Francisco, CA, from April 4-28, 2013

Stuck Elevator was developed, in part, by the Sundance Institute Theatre Program with additional support from the Sundance Institute’s Time Warner Fellowship Program

Stuck Elevator is a project of Creative Capital, and was developed, in part, with the assistance of the Asian/Pacific/American Institute artist-in-residence program at NYU and Yale Institute for Music Theatre. Touring is made possible with funding by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Theater Pilot, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Support for earlier versions from 4Culture, Artist Trust, API/2, City of Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Hand2Mouth’s Risk/Reward New Performance Festival, Museum of Chinese in America, On the Boards’ NW New Works Festival, Theatre Off Jackson and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

Stark Insider visits Stuck Elevator

San Francisco’s Stark Insider visited the American Conservatory Theatre studios during rehearsals of Stuck Elevator. Check out the fun video they made with clips of rehearsal footage + interviews with director Chay Yew and actor Joel Perez:

Here are excerpts from Trapped in an Elevator for 81 Hours by Clinton Stark:
When we headed this week to the A.C.T. rehearsal space in San Francisco, I expected a straightforward account — okay, here’s a guy stock in an elevator, who hallucinates in fantastical, hyper, stereo-vision, before being remarkably rescued days later. Case closed. Substitute the elevator with an isolated slot canon, Guang with James Franco, and you might even have the Bronx version of 127 hours. Isolation, hallucination, hunger. We’ve seen that before. But there’s a few things that takes this production in otherwise unexpected directions.

For one, we soon see the elevator as a metaphor for the American Dream; symbolizing what we can and cannot achieve. Specifically, immigration becomes a major theme.

“Instead of an awful Andy Warhol experience of trapping you in a little elevator for eighty-one hours for you to be with this one person,” says Yew. “The elevator is beautiful in that wonderful metaphorical way. Most people are stuck. We forget that a lot of illegal immigrants basically service this country in so many ways.”

“If you see a Mexican gardener, he’s one of the few lucky ones that has crossed the desert to be here. You don’t realize he’s working for $30 per day. And he’s seen, smelled and maybe even experienced a bit of death along the way.”

In the words of artistic director Carey Perloff, “Who would have thought you could turn the true story of a frightened Chinese deliveryman stuck in an elevator into a hilarious and heartbreaking musical about hunger, immigration, family, dreams, and duck sauce?”

The other facet of Stuck Elevator that caught my attention as I watched the six member ensemble during the spirited rehearsal session was the hybrid nature of its presentation. Yes, it’s a play. But it’s one that employs a stylish mix of opera, musical theater, and solo performance to tell a story rich in quasi-reality.
Stuck Elevator plays at the American Conservatory Theatre, April 4-28, 2013.

"Shame" from Stuck Elevator

Julius Ahn sings “Shame” from Stuck Elevator accompanied by music director Dolores Duran-Cefalu. Also in this video are librettist Aaron Jafferis and I talking about the show and this number.

Stuck Elevator premieres at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, April 4-28, 2013.

Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas

Site-Responsive Work
hiking singers, water percussionists

“... musical effects both dramatic and delicate.” Gavin Borchert, Seattle Weekly

Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas are musical miniatures available as live performances in water and a sound/light installation. Hiking singers and percussionists performed 64 Bottled Operas in lakes, fountains, and other waterways throughout the Northwest in 2008.

Video Excerpt

Creative Team
Byron Au Yong, composer
Randy Moss, media artist for installation
Aaron Jafferis, Caroline Murphy, Eugenie Chan, Edisa Weeks, Bret Fetzer, Archana Kumar, Vivian Umino, Carola Luther, librettists
Pike Pin, project manager
Tom Stiles & CJ Lazenby, audio engineers
Emily Carlsen, costumes
Jean-Stephane & Eric Rockey, videographers
2008 Performers
Betsy Baeskens, Josie Davis, Emily Greenleaf, Jeremiah Oliver, David Stutz, singers
Stuart McLeod, Dean Moore, Benjamin Morrow, James Whetzel, percussionists
Audio Interviews
Jack Straw Productions

KUOW Sound Focus (0:28-13:13)

Installation Video

2011 Seattle Symphony Day of Music
2011 Staging Sustainability Conference, Toronto
2010 May Day! May Day! Town Hall Seattle
2008 Jack Straw New Media Gallery
2008 Bumbershoot Festival of the Arts
2008 4Culture Site-Specific Arts

Audio Recording
64 Libretti
NPR/KUOW Interview
MAP Fund

Press Quotes
“... exquisite darkness... whimsical lines... captivating experience.”
Christopher DeLaurenti, The Stranger 
“Au Yong deploys the repetition in these travels as a way to create the physical musical rituals that fill Kidnapping Water.... He also aims to use ritual to challenge the structure of American society.”
Roxanne Ray, International Examiner (PDF
“... maybe this is your weekend to doggie-paddle in water opera.”
Katelyn Hackett, Seattlest 
“Byron Au Yong’s Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas got my mind racing through the possibilities of performance without a performance space.”
Zach Carstensen, The Gathering Note

Read in-depth preview by Gavin Borchert in the Seattle Weekly

New Music for Taiko Video

Thinking about new music for taiko, Chad Williams and I made this brief informational video while we were at the 2011 North American Taiko Conference at Stanford University from August 18-21. Included are thoughts from:
  • Kenny Endo (Taiko Center of the Pacific, Hawai’i)
  • George Abe (founding member of Kinnara Taiko, Los Angeles)
  • Roy and PJ Hirabayashi (directors emeritus of San Jose Taiko)
  • Yoshihiko Miyamoto (president of Miyamoto Unosuke Shoten, Tokyo) 
  • Masato Baba (artistic director of TAIKOPROJECT, member of On Ensemble, Los Angeles)
  • Michelle Fujii (artistic director of Portland Taiko)
Chad and I interviewed many folks we were not able to include in this short video. There are many other taiko musicians who create new work. Perhaps we can make more videos?

What would you like to hear about generating new work for taiko?

24 City

Sometimes, one scene makes an entire show click. In 24 City, this moment for me was when a buyer for wealthy ladies in Chengdu, China acknowledges that she will survive because she is the daughter of factory workers. Born in the 1980s, Zhao Tao is one of the final characters we meet in this poetic take on how China is shifting.

24 City focuses on stories from three generations of residents in an area formerly known as Factory 420. In a subtle mix of documentary and fiction film-making, director Jia Zhang-ke handles his subjects carefully, akin to a portrait artist, focusing on memories of migration and the lines around the lips. Quotes from Irish writer W.B. Yeats along with music from Chinese red songs, orchestral strings and Japanese enka add to this peculiar yet strangely comforting film about the transition of an aeronautical factory into a luxury high-rise complex.

As I watched the film, I thought of the stories buildings contain. Once these places are demolished, do memories become rubble to be swept away?

Movie Trailer

Thoughts from RADAR L.A.

In June 2011, REDCAT, Under the Radar Festival, Center Theatre Group and Theatre Communications Group hosted 15 contemporary performances in Los Angeles. I attended nine of the shows from RADAR L.A. Here are brief impressions from three:

Neva | Teatro en el Blanco
In this potent work set during Bloody Sunday (1905), three actors question the value of theater on a small platform lit by a heat lamp. The ending rant about the bourgeoisie audience had the supertitles flip so fast I held my breath. In a panel at the RADAR L.A. Symposium, director Guillermo Calderon said that he strives for laughter that starts in the stomach and ends in the brain.

State of Incarceration | Los Angeles Poverty Department (LADP) This installation/public education/performance caused some audience members to walk out and others to weep. I was in the latter category. Towards the end of the show, the performers cleaned the bunks with rags. I was stunned by this ritual of futility and dignity.

Amarillo | Teatro Linea de Sombra
Text, dance + projections = a performance result of NAFTA focusing on a man lost when trying to cross the U.S./Mexico border. I marvel at his athleticism scaling the wall of a theater but never escaping. Plastic water bottled are lit by flashlights and in the end sand falls.


On my flight from Toronto to Seattle, I watched the documentary Collapse. Airplane seats are a confining space to "enjoy" movies, especially now that seat belts must be strapped whenever one is seated. Have you noticed that the movie selection always includes terrifying and seemingly inappropriate flicks about the world ending?

I chose to watch this documentary not realizing how captivated I would become. Michael Ruppert was an investigative journalist. I was fascinated by his calm urgency and insight into how to survive inevitable revolutions. I was touched by his breakdown in thinking about President Obama. I was heartened to hear that his solutions included growing food and strengthening local networks.

Author Seth Godin recently wrote:
¡Note! Like all revolutions, this is an opportunity, not a solution, not a guarantee. It's an opportunity to poke and experiment and fail and discover dead ends on the way to making a difference. The old economy offered a guarantee -- time plus education plus obedience = stability. The new one, not so much. The new one offers a chance for you to take a chance and make an impact.
I think about Collapse and Godin's call-to-action. Increasingly, the idea of infinite growth promised by advanced capitalism leads to devastation. I am thankful to be in a neighborhood with vegetable gardens surrounded by folks who take pleasure in digging and planting. I listen to my chickens and notice the breeze or birds overhead.

Could the revolution be quiet or will there be riots on Main Street USA?

Ji Mo 寂寞: The Stillness of Solitude

"... a healing meditation." —The Oregonian

Dance Music Theatre
for voices, xun, er-hu, bamboo, water, rocks, Chinese percussion

Ji Mo 寂寞: The Stillness of Solitude is a music-dance-theater work for quartet. Thinking about the hikikomori (young adults in Japan who withdraw from society), my collaborators and I go beyond the comforting heartbeat of the drums to explore the distress signals of loss.

Video Excerpt

Creative Team
Byron Au Yong, composer, voice, xun, er-hu, bamboo, rocks, percussion
Michelle Fujii, voice, bamboo, water, rocks, percussion
Karen Akada Sakata, voice, xun, bamboo, rocks, percussion
Toru Watanabe, voice, bamboo, water, rocks, percussion
Kikuko Dewa, shibori artist
Michelle Kumata, costume designer
Okazawa M, technical director
Sarah Lin Bhatia, production coordinator
Lorraine Pai, installation coordinator

Duration: 19 minutes
Commissioned by Portland Taiko
Premiered at Lincoln Hall in Portland, Oregon, April 2007

Press Quotes
"Seattle's Byron Au Yong brings a highly visual theatricality."
Portland Tribune

"Taiko is often about loud, rapid drumming that thrills audiences with its physicality. But Portland Taiko takes a different tack with a new work on its upcoming concert."
The Oregonian
photos by Aaron Jafferis (click for slideshow)
photos by Jean-Stephane (click for slideshow)


Last weekend I visited Portland. Luckily I was able to hitch a ride with Tonya & Brant + touch base with Michelle & Toru. My friendships deepened during this time partly because of how the earthquake in Japan continues to resonate close to home.

Questions from our conversations:
· How do you respond to catastrophe?
· If you could follow your bliss, what would that be?
Thinking about responses to the devastation in Japan, I created this video slideshow of Ji Mo 寂寞: The Stillness of Solitude.

Perhaps it is old fashioned to think that art can bridge the place between distress and comfort. Nonetheless, I offer this slideshow as an initial response. The music is a remix from a live performance at Lincoln Hall in Portland. The photos are from an early morning at Kubota Garden in Seattle. This stillness of solitude is a reflective space to recompose.

放火 火の粉
hōka hinoko
fire sparks

放火 炎
hōka hono(o)
fire flames

放火 火事だ
hōka kajida
fire roars

Seattle-based artist Diem Chau responds by offering two crayon family portraits as part of a raffle on her blog. Chau will donate raffle proceeds to the Japanese Red Cross.

Have you found more responses worth noting?

The Mother of Us All

“... laptop wizardry by Au Yong.” —Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times
Dance Music
for kora, laptop, soundtrack

The Mother of Us All is a dance-music-text work about contemporary Africa created by Donald Byrd and Spectrum Dance Theatre. Composer Byron Au Yong collaborated on this project as part of the initiative Beyond Dance: Promoting Awareness and Mutual Understanding.

Video Preview

Creative Team
Donald Byrd, choreographer
Byron Au Yong, composer
Jack Mehler, set/lighting designer
Byron Au Yong, laptop
Kane Mathis, kora
Marsha Mutisi, voice
Michael Bagne, Kelly Ann Barton, Bonnie Boiter-Jolly, Ty Alexander Cheng, Kylie Lewallen, Vincent Lopez, Amber Nicole Mayberry, Tory Peil, Sarah Poppe, Meaghan Sanford, dancers

Duration: 68 minutes
Presented by Spectrum Dance Theatre, in partnership with Seattle Theater Group
Premiered at The Moore Theatre in Seattle, March 2011

Press Quotes
“The kora is an old, old instrument, and Au Yong has it almost vanish within a river of electronic, industrial sonic artifact... The score is perfectly suited to what you see.”
Michael van Baker, SunBreak 
“The air fills with musical fragments, ambient street sounds and a series of talking heads holding forth on the challenges facing Africa. The sound tableau, composed by Byron Au Yong, mixes recorded material with Kane Mathis performing live on the kora (West African harp).”
Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times 
more articles about The Mother of Us All

Piao Zhu: Flying Bamboo

Ceremonial Music
for voices, drums, cymbals, gongs, bamboo, fiddle, mouth harp, water

Piao Zhu 飄竹: Flying Bamboo is a contemporary performance inspired by the legend of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove – a band of Chinese scholars and poets who met to escape political and societal duress during the 3rd century BCE.

A Piao Zhu 飄竹: Flying Bamboo performance includes music and movement with a focus on social action and artistic wonder. The ensemble is available to perform for various functions with one to four musicians.

  • Duration variable
  • Performances include the Community Arts Day Celebration for Bainbridge Performing Arts, the Arts-in-Nature Festival, and additional events throughout the Pacific Northwest
  • Piao Zhu 飄竹 premiered as a two-hour event at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, May 2006
Past and current performers include Tophe Anderson, Byron Au Yong, Kelsey Furuta, Paul Kikuchi, Tiffany Lin, Karen Lindenberg, Karen Akada Sakata, and Ying Zhou

Press Quote
"Piao Zhu, in English 'flying bamboo,' a new dance/percussion/chant meditation/ritual by Byron Au Yong, whose interdisciplinary works are as exquisite and imaginative as they are unclassifiable."
Gavin Borchert, Seattle Weekly Pick

Bainbridge Performing Arts (click for slideshow)
Arts-in-Nature Festival (click for slideshow)
Dedicated to intercultural collaboration, Byron Au Yong composes songs of dislocation, music for a changing world. He teaches in Performing Arts & Social Justice at the University of San Francisco.

Byron Au Yong & Christopher Yohmei Blasdel: BreathPlay

Byron Au Yong: Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas
Kidnapping Water:
Bottled Operas
Byron Au Yong: Yiju