20 Sep 21

Sound Generator: Spotlight on Alex Ho

Alex Ho

Sound UK’s new artist development programme, Sound Generator, supports early career artists and the work they present.

In this series of Spotlight interviews, we will find out more about the artists on this year’s programme, delve deeper into their Sound Generator project and discover what the process has meant to them.

This week, we talk to Alex Ho.

Can you tell us about your Sound Generator project? Where did the initial inspiration come from?

Racism towards Chinese communities in the UK is nothing new. In 2017, research by the University of Essex showed that Chinese people faced the highest levels of racial harassment in the UK. This figure has only increased in the last eighteen months as communities across the globe have seen a drastic rise in anti-Asian hate.

Against this backdrop of violence, pain, and shattered connections, my Sound Generator project seeks to go a small way into rebuilding trust between peoples and communities. It centres on rebuilding trust with Chinatown, perhaps the most iconic site of transnational Chinese communities and brings together two key elements of my cultural identity: music and gorgeous, gorgeous food.

My project involves bringing audiences together to create (and eat!) Chinese dishes whilst experiencing contemporary music written in response to the richness of Chinatown: its foods, its smells, its histories, and its people.

How has your idea developed during this project so far? And what have you learnt?

I knew from the start that I wanted this project to respond to the racism Chinese communities have experienced over the last eighteen months, but I was not sure how I wanted to do this. What would the message be? What final form would the project take?

Collaboration was key to answering these questions and I have loved working once more with my fabulous colleagues at Tangram, the first and only UK-based collective made up of composers, researchers, and performers of Chinese and western instruments. Sharing Chinese food has become a bit of ritual in Tangram projects and so the idea to combine food and music for this production feels like a natural fit.

What has this opportunity meant to you?

Participating on the Sound Generator opportunity has given me time and space to think deeply about the relationship between my music and my identity. It has also encouraged me to consider the ways that my perception of Chinese identity intersects with others and explore the richness in both the alignments and misalignments.

Has it helped you to develop your creative practice? If so, how?

Collaboration has been key to my creative practice over the last few years and it has been wonderful to continue exploring not only how I work with people but also work with forms beyond music in creative and sensitive ways. Growing up in London with parents from Hong Kong meant that food (especially dim sum) was the main way that I engaged with Chinese culture so it feels so exciting (and daunting!) to finally match up the dots between food and music.

Who are your key musical influences?

I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for composers Du Yun and Huang Ruo. They inspire me through their music, how they speak about music, how they curate it, and how they make clear its social roles.

What have you been listening to recently? Any new music recommendations?

I'd love to share some Chinese food recommendations instead...! In Chinatown, my favourites are definitely Baozi Inn, Wan Chai Corner, and Four Seasons. Outside Chinatown, the branches of Royal China (Bayswater and Canary Wharf) are very nice if slightly more pricey. My favourite dishes are Cheung Fun (basically noodles often filled with meat or vegetables), a particular prawn dumpling that can be Anglocised as Ha Kau, and Beef Ho Fun.

What are your hopes for the project? How do you see it developing beyond this initial 6-month award?

My hope for this project is to show the richness and plurality of Chinese identity. I'd also want every audience member to learn something new through this performance art piece: a new recipe, a new taste, a new smell, a new sound, and/or the results of how these can be combined. More tangibly, my dream for this project is that it takes place simultaneously across different Chinatowns across the world so as to create a sense of community between the disparate transnational Chinese communities.

To find out more about Alex Ho's work, visit his website. We look forward to sharing more information on Alex's Sound Generator project as it develops.

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