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Capturing the pulse of sister cities: Shanghai and Berlin

LISTEN, really listen, and you can hear the sounds beneath the urban surface. Cities have their own pulse and "music." Three musicians capture the real tunes of Shanghai and Berlin, reports Yao Minji.

Music often reflects the places where it originates. The exciting beat of flamenco reminds one of the richness and passion of Spain. The melancholy melodies of Enga are drawn from the deeply rooted love for sakura and snow in Japanese culture. The rapid beating of large drums reminds us of the opening ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Unique cities have unique sounds.

In the case of the multimedia music party titled "Sound of the Cities - Berlin and Shanghai," sponsored by the German Consulate General in Shanghai, three musicians will present their understanding of sounds of the two metropolises. They are sister cities.

The 90-minute party has two parts: a 30-minute creation by Shanghai native Chen Jia and a 45-minute piece from German sound duo, Tamtam.

Chen is a 22-year-old senior majoring in music engineering at the prestigious Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Early this year she won the opportunity to collect sound elements in Berlin for one week.

In Berlin, Chen met Tamtam, comprised of 53-year-old composer Sam Auinger and 43-year-old Hannes Strobl, both interested in excavating the special sounds hidden in crowded and noisy cities.

They've collected all kinds of sounds in Shanghai - sounds from crowds, traffic, cafes, zoom of subways, hawkers, click of the clocks.

The Austrian-born composer Auinger got together with Strobl and formed the duo in 2005. Since the 1980s Auinger has been involved in computer music, psycho acoustics (study of the human perception of sound) and sound design.

Tamtam is not his first musical collaboration; Auinger founded O+A with Bruce Odland in 1989 to explore the central theme of "hearing perspective." Auinger has also created projects with choreographer Marguerite Donion and composer Class Willeke.

A prominent figure in his field, Auinger has received numerous musical awards; he was the youngest recipient of the prestigious art award Kultur Preis der Stadt Linz in 2002 and the SKE Publicity Preis in 2007.

Tamtam, with Auinger and Strobl, focuses on musical improvisation and sound effects. They visited Shanghai last year for an audio exploration of the host city for the World Expo 2010 and created a 45-minute piece based on their collections, experience and understanding of the international city.

"Both the German musicians and the Shanghai student are not restricted to the traditional music customs and dare to make brave audio explorations and innovations," says Dong Qinwen, organizer of the program from the German consulate. "We want to show the features of the two metropolises through an audio understanding with visual complements."

Chen's piece, based on sound she collected from her one-week trip in Berlin, also comes with a sophisticated visual layer featuring live vocalists and dancers.

During intermission of the upcoming concert, the three musicians will also share their sound-collecting experiences.

Each playing an instrument in ensemble, they will also perform classic melodies from both countries. The song list of the temporary band, with Auinger on guitar/bass, Strobl on violin and Chen on keyboard, is under discussion.

Admission is free. Their party will be held in Shanghai's electronic art zone on Shilong Road. Seating capacity is 300.

Date: May 23, 7pm

Address: 395 Shilong Rd

Admission: Free


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