The Exhibition view of Liu Sola, Yuan Art Museum-Beijing, 2023
Liu Sola’s Animated Scores
Like any conservatory-trained composer, Liu Sola can write conventional scores, but the scores at this exhibition look more like visual art than a form of music notation. Besides being unusual, what else is there in these scores which she started producing in 1997? Here are 4 points among others to consider:
In-corporeal, Liu Sola, paper, 1999
--A Process of “Unlearning”
Sola spent 15 years abroad living and working as a composer and performer, first in London and then in New York, where she absorbed a lot of new ideas about contemporary music and free jazz. However, when she returned to China in the early 2000’s to work with Chinese music and musicians, she began a process not so much of applying what she had learnt abroad to her future work, but more a process of freeing herself from what she had learnt: “unlearning” as a paradoxical creative process. An important step was to restore body to music.
《大圣传奇》，刘索拉，纸，60 x 30 cm，2022
The Legend of Monkey King, Liu Sola, paper, 60 x 30 cm，2022
面对这些乐谱，我们首先注意到的是它们是多么生动有趣，多么不似抽象符号。这意味着音乐也是一种物体，这个“物体/音乐”对眼睛的作用不亚于对耳朵的作用。有些乐谱，如“爸爸椅”，甚至采用可辨识的物体形状，而其他的乐谱则不易辨识。音乐要求我们以全身来体验，而不仅仅是用身体的某一部分。【索拉是法国哲学家吉尔·德勒兹（Gilles Deleuze）的读者，尽管她是一位古怪的读者！】这些活乐谱向我们展示了，正如德勒兹可能观察到的那样，乐谱生成了形体。这在与音乐有亲密联系的画家保罗·克利（Paul Klee）作品中也有着突出的体现。克利将线条称为去散步的点，而不是抽象实体；也就是说，线是点生成的形体。
The first thing we notice about these scores is how animated and playful they are, how unlike abstract notation. The implication is that music is also an object, and object-music addresses the eye as much as the ear. Some scores, like “Daddy’s Chair”, even take the shape of identifiable objects, while others are less easily identifiable. Music requires us to use the whole body and not just a part. (Sola is a reader of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, though an eccentric reader!) These animated scores show us, as Deleuze might observe, scores becoming-body. A similar emphasis can be found in Paul Klee, a painter with an intimate relation with music. Klee speaks of a line not as an abstract entity but as a dot going on a walk; i.e., the line as the dot becoming-body.
《节奏密码》，刘索拉，纸，98 x 84 cm，2007
Rhythmic Codes, Liu Sola, paper, 98 x 84 cm, 2007
--As Lego Set
Compress, Liu Sola, 2017, The exhibition view of Yuan Art Museum–Beijing, 2021
A music score can also give some idea of how we think about music and the world we live in. The classical score notates music as the relation between horizontal notes and vertical chords, and the ability to synchronize the horizontal and vertical axis reflects an orderly and hierarchical world. We can think of the introduction of 12-tone music which is scored very differently as the intuition of a world out of sync; an atonal music that abandoned the horizontal and vertical axis; a music marked by chance, indeterminacy, and the loss of order. Nevertheless, the atonal has now become the system of “contemporary music”, and here is where the idea of the Lego set that children play with suggests itself as a half-serious analogue for Sola’s scores. Lego is a modular system consisting of independent parts whose combination allows us to create whatever we can imagine. In her playful scores, notes are not constrained to follow one another in standard ways; they can jump lines or make “quantum leaps”. These scores give us an idea of music as something both precise and unpredictable.
《仙儿念珠》，刘索拉，纸，98 x 84 cm，1998
Witch's Beads, Liu Sola, paper, 98 x 84 cm，1998
--The Changing Shape of Tradition
The Afterlife of Li Jiantong, Liu Sola, 2009
When we think of tradition, we have to overcome a double prejudice: the view that tradition is outdated or that it has all the answers. There may be parts of tradition we have forgotten or whose relevance we are not able to discern. For example, one aspect of ancient Chinese music that is not generally acknowledged is that it uses a 12-tone scale which we think of as a modern development. The 12 tones can be arranged on a circle, so that a clockwise movement can indicate a movement from Yin to Yang, and a counter-clockwise movement, from Yang to Yin. The forms can change: the circle as structure can transform into a double triangle. In one, the base (Yang) is on top, and it narrows to an apex (Yin); in the other, the apex is on top and it widens towards its base. What has just been described is the shape of one of Sola’s scores. Drawing on tradition should not be seen as antithetical to a concern with the contemporary; rather it involves looking again at the overlooked and and placing them in the context of contemporary experience.
《中国拼贴》，作曲 | 刘索拉，制作 | Bill Laswell，日本Avan 唱片公司，录音艺术家 | 刘索拉、吴蛮，1996