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Confluence of Inspiration - "Pursuing the Light Ahead - Into Paul Chiang" Sound and Music Theatre

​"Can I become an artist?" This was the constant self-questioning of Paul Chiang during his 30 years overseas in Paris and New York. Now, back in Taiwan and settled in Taitung, in his eighties, he still presents the world with countless deeply moving works fueled by inexhaustible passion. Chiang’s perseverance and yearning in artistic creation have become a beacon for artists in different fields, illuminating their respective journeys and bringing them together to explore the power of art to its limits.

The exhibition "Into Paul Chiang – 5G Immersive Light, Shadow & Orchestra Trilogy," which ended at the end of February 2024 at the Q Building of the Weiwuying Metropolitan Park in Kaohsiung, and the March 2024 "Pursuing the Ligh Ahead - Into Paul Chiang" audiovisual music theater at the National Taichung Theater, are both curated and constructed by Chen Hsin-I, Music Director of the “Neo-Classical Chamber Ensemble” dedicated to the concept of "boundless boundaries." Inspired by the theme of light in Chiang's important works, they explore the dialogue between humans and spiritual spaces, and the land of nature, bringing together outstanding Taiwanese artists, including director Hsieh Chieh-Hua, architect Chao Chien-Ming, composer Chiu Hao-Yuan, visual designer Lee Kuo-han, sound artist Chang Yen-Tzu, dance designer Hsu Cheng-wei, and the outstanding musicians of the “Neo-Classical Chamber Ensemble,” to create a multi-layered audiovisual music theater performance. Drawing on Chiang's life experiences, this is the first time such a cross-disciplinary collaboration has been presented theatrically, with Chiang generously authorizing the use of his work's imagery. In the face of these cross-disciplinary collaborations, Chiang is always modest, believing that they are the creations of young artists, and hoping that each collaboration will develop into another complete work of art.

Music alone cannot express what I want to say.

Chen Hsin-I, a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in the US, and the recipient of the 2022 Kaohsiung Culture & Arts Award, is dedicated to cross-disciplinary performance production. She shared her journey from classical music to cross-domain creation. After returning to Taiwan in 1997, she chose the Taiwanese folk song "Looking for the Spring Wind" as an encore at a concert in Kaohsiung. The thunderous applause from the audience deeply moved her. Reflecting on her experience of studying abroad, she realized the inseparable connection between Taiwanese culture and her life. "The process of living in Taiwan or childhood memories, even if you go abroad, it is always in your heart. When you are in a certain moment, it will suddenly open up, just like waves constantly surging out."

Chen wanted to tell the stories of this land, only to realize that pure classical music could not satisfy her desired form of expression. After drawing inspiration from the landscapes and cultures of Taiwan, she exclaimed, "My goodness! This is a wonderful emotion that I have never experienced before!" She continued to search for topics worthy of in-depth exploration, creating different interdisciplinary works on stage. The soundscape music theater breaks away from established performance forms, expanding the imagination of theatrical forms through the interaction of music, movement, auditory and visual elements, and Taiwan's local soundscape materials. In 2020, "Ten Lines of Poetry to NK," Chen used the theme of exploring "beauty" with the poet Jiang Zide, winner of the 39th Wu San-Lian Award, as the creative inspiration. This work was recognized at the "World Stage Design Calgary 2022."

Music is the best medium for interdisciplinary communication

For Chen, settling in Taitung brought another artistic turning point in her life, resonating with and inspiring her in many ways. She said, "When I rediscovered the emotions of my own culture, I realized that there must be an 'opening' to enter another peak and field." She wanted to delve deeply into Chiang's creations and the relationship between his paintings and music.

“For pianists, our hands are our brushes, and we spend our lives pursuing how to present the aesthetics of sound through skilled playing techniques, trying to interpret the details of musical content and the tonal changes of light and shade strokes.” — Chen Hsin-I

The layers, rhythms, and fluidity of music, along with its pure tones, make it blend well with visual arts or poetry, achieving excellent interdisciplinary integration. Chen creates performances full of imagination and color through the experimental form of "musical composition painting," which, with the assistance of technology, maintains the human warmth and pure strokes of the original work. She illustrated how she expressed Chiang's work "Jinzun / Winter" through music, "The vertical lines in the painting not only construct a complex scene but also symbolize Chiang's deep inner struggles. I translated these lines into multiple voice overlays in the music... I seem to see many corresponding musical symbols in the paintings." Chen confirmed that music and painting can interact in multiple dimensions, opening up different visual and auditory perspectives for the audience.


Multidimensional interdisciplinary theater: Interpretation, adaptation, and ways forward

Hsieh Chieh-Hua, who served as one of the directors of the opening ceremony of the 2017 Summer Universiade, is the director of "Into Paul Chiang – 5G Immersive Light, Shadow & Orchestra Trilogy" and "Pursuing the Ligh Ahead - Into Paul Chiang" theater productions. He said, "The two projects differ fundamentally in concept and practice; ‘Into Paul Chiang – 5G Immersive Light, Shadow & Orchestra Trilogy’ project is an immersive space, hoping to create an experience where the audience completely enters into the image, while in theater production, there is already a distance between the audience and the stage. New adjustments must be made in spatial control and planning, with significant differences in the audience's arrival, focus, and experience."


In the theater performance of "Pursuing the Ligh Ahead - Into Paul Chiang," after the audience enters and sits in the theater, a pure auditory "overture" prepares them to enter into Chiang's life story. This is followed by four acts named after Chiang's representative works: the space fantasy of "Notre Dame de Paris," the hometown sentiment of "Hundred Year Temple," the exuberance of "Pisilian," and the profound spirituality of “Holy of Holies” ending with "Silver Lake," constructing a scattered and solitary stage in a quiet space, resonating with the spirituality of the overall narrative. 


“Holy of Holies” is not the name of any of Chiang's works but is inspired by a three-dimensional sculpture by Chiang, using the concept of the deepest and most sacred place in a temple as the inspiration. It imagines a dialogue with people in a spiritual church space, as well as the inner dialogue of the creator.


"I find Chiang's work very interesting because, despite being flat and static paintings, you can strongly feel the sense of space and a kind of dynamism, perhaps due to the imbalance or perhaps due to a certain precise arrangement." - Hsieh Chieh-Hua

Having a background in architecture, Hsieh entered the world of theater because of his love for dance. He said, "Architecture is originally about imagining the integration of multiple needs, and architectural training helps me integrate these fields, including dealing with the nuances between music and dance." He particularly likes Chiang's "Silver Lake" series. Although the images are only in black and white gradients, there are incredible levels of viewing. In his eyes, "Pursuing the Ligh Ahead - Into Paul Chiang" is not just a performance on stage. Through lighting, music, and the movements of the dancers, it is a flowing landscape, a dynamic painting, and a space filled with music.


Graduated from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University in the US and awarded international awards such as the iF Design Award in Germany, architect Chao Chien-Ming served as the stage designer in this theater production. He mentioned that when he studied architecture in Taiwan, architecture was classified in the field of engineering. However, when he entered Columbia University, architecture was juxtaposed with art disciplines. The different learning environments made him realize that architecture is not only the realization of structure and function but also an art form of spatial narrative. Therefore, when he works in the field of stage design, he greatly enjoys the feeling of collaborating with creative people from various fields.


"When we imagine spiritual spaces, it feels grand, but in reality, the inner space of a person within it is very small." When reading Chiang's paintings, he deeply felt the weight and relationship between the "spiritual space" and the real in it. He used three elements as the main components of the stage. With the alternation of scenes, they would move, rotate, combine, and separate, forming various geometric shapes such as spaceships, caves, and light walls, becoming carriers of the projection of a multi-layered space.

The components not only shape the spatial layers of the stage but also integrate into the performance. After discussing with dance designer Hsu Cheng-wei, architect Chao, as the stage designer, ensured that many dancers interacted with the components. This not only helped change the components on the stage, creating dynamic and diverse visual effects, but also promoted the progression of the theater. This also reflects the director's familiarity with the dynamic aesthetics of dance and the precise and clever integration of the two, demonstrating a high pursuit of cross-disciplinary integration.


Artistic Originals and the Precise Balance with Technology


Chiang once said, "I am not painting temples; I am just expressing my current state of mind."


With this philosophy, in the scene "Hundred Year Temple," the music team contrasted the bustling environment to highlight the tranquility of the creator's soul. Through such contrast, they highlighted Chiang's homesickness after living abroad for 30 years, the profound impact on his native culture, and the deep tranquility that touches the soul in his paintings. "Many classical learners have a more reserved attitude towards technology, worrying that it will lose the purity of art. In ‘Pursuing the Ligh Ahead - Into Paul Chiang,' I tried to achieve a perfect blend of pure artistic presentation and technological integration. In terms of technology, I hope not to affect the aesthetics, artistic nature, and poetic essence of Chiang's work," said Chen.


In recent years, the “Neo-Classical Chamber Ensemble” has actively sought to expand the audience's imagination of music presentation. For example, in the scene "Notre-Dame de Paris," they created a universe-like, thickly spiritual atmosphere. Besides the live orchestra's performance, composer Chiu Hao-Yuan organically modulated electronic sound materials, demonstrating a fragmented, delayed, and spatially expansive feeling. In the fifth scene, “Holy of Holies,” electronic sound is the main sound, simulating sounds from the womb, waves, swirling memory fragments, and the innocent dialogue between child and father. These sounds have surpassed the realm of traditional instrument performance, and the addition of technology has been carefully considered and balanced.


"Chiang's work is like Mozart's music, where one more note or one less note would be inappropriate. His aesthetics are just right." Through projection, dance, music, and three-dimensional construction, each creator must undergo deep collaboration and coordination to create an outstanding stage work. This is similar to the flowing colors in Chiang's paintings, which seem casual but are actually extremely delicate artistic expressions.


Pursuing the Ligh Ahead - Into Paul Chiang


In the process of co-creation, the creators explore the boundaries of art, find the confluence of inspiration, and, like Chiang, hope that their works will not be confined to a canvas but will seemingly extend infinitely. "I hope that after the audience watches this work, they will not necessarily understand something, but rather gain a personal experience. When the audience leaves the theater, these experiences will become a segment of their life experience." I hope, as director Hsieh said, that this 75-minute performance will become a precious painting in everyone's life.

| “Neo-Classical Chamber Ensemble's” 2024 production "Pursuing the Ligh Ahead - Into Paul Chiang" is one of the selected important works locally and abroad at the "2024 NTT Arts NOVA" music festival at the National Taichung Theater. The first performance of the tour kicked off March 30-31. For Taipei and Kaohsiung schedules, please visit website.



The production team of "Pursuing the Ligh Ahead - Into Paul Chiang" has gathered many Taiwanese artists, including dance designer Hsu Cheng-wei, who delves into traditional Taiwanese culture, issues of life and death, and beliefs. With his profound understanding of body movements, he has created a unique and delicate dance aesthetic. Image designer Lee Kuo-han, who won the World Stage Design Calgary 2022, demonstrates innovative vocabulary blending images and space. New media artist and sound artist Chang Yen-Tzu, through the combination of art, philosophy, and science, explores the essence of life in a playful way. Composer Chiu Hao, who graduated from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, is not only active on the international stage of new music but also committed to promoting the development of contemporary music and music art education.


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