Sound artist tunes up Totally Huge

“For me, music is an experiential language. If you try to decode everything with your mind, perhaps you’re not actually enjoying the music?”

Melbourne-based Taiwanese sound artist Alice Hui-Sheng Chang might be onto something there. Not for her the inaccessible, the cerebral.

“A lot of musicians like myself are now taking their music into unconventional performance spaces in order to connect with a broader audience,” the 30-year-old vocalist and RMIT graduate says. “And besides, when you’re working with just the voice there is nowhere to hide.”

Chang uses “different textures of voice internally and externally” to respond extempore to her immediate environment and, in the case of collaborations, the vocal or instrumental utterances of her musical partners. There is something of the primal scream in this; but it would be a mistake to view Chang’s art as anything other than culturally and psychologically complex.

“The Taiwanese educational system is about community and less about the individual voice,” she says. “When I started to perform it was about finding my own voice early on before moving back to the group and finding that collective energy. You form a community while still voicing something that is alternative, different.”

For Chang, art has a social function and music is the international language. “English is my second language, so finding a way to communicate with each other without struggling to find the right words became important. It’s the energy of conversing.”

Chang will be working and performing with WA singers and composers as part of next week’s Totally Huge new Music Festival, which includes more than 20 concerts in addition to multi-media exhibitions and installations. The Festival will also host the launch of the Western Australian New Music Archive of new music from 1970 to today, which coincides with the Festival Symposium: “Western Australian Art Music Activity: 1970-2014.”

This year WA’s premiere new music event features over local, interstate and international 50 artists working across a range of genres and whose primary material is sound – musical or otherwise.

Highlights include German cellist Friedrich Gauwerky’s solo concert Amour-Soundbridge featuring music by Henze, Stockhausen, Fritz Reiner and Felix Werder; London-based Australian pianist Zubin Kanga’s solo concert Dark Twin featuring music by Steve Reich, Julian Day, Cat Hope and others; and Sydney percussionist Claire Edwardes’ concert Time Alone, in which she performs the music of Ligeti, Lindberg, Christopher Tonkin and others with local performers Ashley Smith and Louise Devenish.

Also of especial note is the festival’s composer-in-residence German composer, performer and sound artist Johannes S. Sistermanns’ series of installations and immersive sound works which includes a new chamber work commissioned by Decibel.

As festival director Tos Mahony says, this year’s Totally Huge New Music Festival showcases “the brilliant diversity of new music and sound art practices for the engagement of our equally diverse audiences. The Festival is a great opportunity for avid followers of new music and sound art, as well as the curious, to dive into the ocean of sonic delight.”

The 12th Totally Huge New Music Festival runs May 15-24. For full details see