This is a simple project. I invited a few musician friends to choose an open space outdoors (wherever they liked) in which they would play some things and record them. A duration of 30 minutes. I specifically didn’t want to say what they might do or how they might do it. Each person received the same instructions, just a few words. After collecting all of the recordings, I would take the material, layer the tracks together into a single recording, and produce a cassette.
The piece is called 30 minutes on earth. Even though the name sounds a little too grandiose, it doesn’t really matter as far as I’m concerned. The idea for this project came to me one day while I was riding my bike, it took about 30 minutes to think through.
I thought of a few musicians who might be interested in this piece, they all lived in different parts of the world. Although among them were some very close friends, most were people where we’ve only met each other a few times at performances, however even at the first meeting it felt like seeing an old friend: maybe I had arranged a concert for them or they had arranged a concert for me; or I was just an audience member who saw their performance; or I missed the performance but we chatted and had some food together after the show… I mention these examples to emphasize that I have met them in person, it’s an important aspect.
I sent out the invitations and everybody readily accepted. After this there was a long wait. I know you can’t really say a month is a ‘long wait’, it’s just that I originally thought that this would be a very short piece that could recorded in a half an afternoon. But in fact maybe things aren’t so straightforward. There can always be some unforeseen event: monsoon season, a bushfire, it might be blowing a gale… or something unexpected in day to day life. Everybody’s busy with their jobs and their own projects.
In January 2019 I received the last recording, and I started mixing. In fact I finished it in an afternoon. The only thing I did was balance the audio levels of the different tracks as well as cut the beginnings and/or the endings of a few tracks which were longer than 30 minutes. I took four of the musicians’ recordings and mixed them into one track, and the other four into the other track. Each piece became one side of the cassette.
I’ll just write a bit about the environments where the eight musicians did their recordings. Li Song was in a park in Xi’an; Zhu Songjie was by the side of Shanghai’s Huangpu River; Yoko Ikeda was in park in Tokyo; Fangyi Liu was at a pier in Kaohsiung; Kevin Corcoran was in the Californian wilderness somewhere near the Pacific Ocean; Paolo Gàiba Riva was on a bridge in a city in Vietnam (I found the location by looking up coordinates that he sent me, at that time he was on a tour of South East Asia); Andrew Fedorovitch might have been in the backyard of his place in Sydney, he didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask; only Montreal’s Craig Pedersen made his recording inside: winter in Canada is freezing and no one wants to stay out in the cold for long!
I can’t express clearly why I wanted to do this project. Although there’s no doubt that I’m interested in outdoor performance, perhaps this network of musicians can be mentioned again. They are all excellent musicians, but apart from this they are all active organizers and participants in their local communities. I would like that our connections together can deepen (as well as connections to the places I have been, or haven’t been to yet), or at the very least that the participants can be introduced to each other a little. I also hope that they, together with Liu Lu, John Wilton, Hiroyuki Ura (who have also participated in this project) can also think about it in this way.
Lastly, concerning this recording, some other friends have been asked to write something more about it, however this is for yet another project.