Hear 30 years of falling rain

Pay attention to the soundscape for The Arts Fission Company's upcoming The Locust Wrath, a site-specific performance at Artspace@ Helutrans which opens this Friday.

It might sound like white noise, but it is based on scientific data. Composer Joyce Beetuan Koh worked with Per Magnus Lindborg, an assistant professor at the School Of Art, Design & Media at the Nanyang Technological University, to create the soundscape for the production.

Lindborg, 45, wrote a computer programme, through which he fed meteorological data from 352 weather stations across South-east Asia, gathered from 1961 to 1993.

The resultant soundscape is like a mass of harp strings overlaid on one another, with weather parameters from each station corresponding to different ways of modulating the sound. For example, humidity is mapped onto the amount of vibrato, the loudness of the sound depends on the amount of rainfall and the resonance of the sound is related to temperature.

Lindborg says: "Art and science is a two-way street. It's a new way of understanding and presenting data. It's like using a telescope or a microscope, seeing things in different ways."

Art Fission's artistic director and choreographer Angela Liong, 61, agrees: "We're used to looking at graphs of rainfall or typhoons. But now it's been translated into a language that we can hear.

"It's not artists coming in and taking liberties, but actual information and material that provide a very strict structure for art making."

The sound derived from the data will be mixed by Koh to include other music, such as recordings of Javanese opera singers.

The production is the fourth part of a series of performances about climate change, which Liong began in collaboration with Koh in 2006.

Liong says that the title of the project references Asian myths which take natural disasters as a sign of divine retribution. She says: "In this piece, what I was doing is looking at the larvae of the locust, the birth of a terrifying beauty. Imagine the locust multiplied 10 fold, a hundred fold, and all the crops wiped out."

She choreographed the dance without listening to the score and instead focused on a series of powerful vignettes centred on the theme of climate change.

In one segment, two dancers representing a clash of natural disasters wrestle each other to the floor, doomed by their mutually assured destruction. In another, an ensemble weaves back and forth along arrow straight lines on the floor, tied down and restricted to invisible tracks.

In a mesmerising solo, queen of locusts Wang Weiwei emerges from a prison of white frames and elastic bands, clawing her way out while clad in a sheath of gossamer green and purple, like the iridescent wings of an insect.

Liong says that with this performance, she hopes not only to raise awareness about climate change, but also to bring to the modern audience the "awe and fear that ancient people felt about nature, which translates into care and respect".

Book it

Singapore pop ensemble group Key Elements will perform on Dec 14.

Where: Artspace@Helutrans, 39 Keppel Road, Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 02-04 
When: Friday and Saturday, 8pm 
Admission: $30 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

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