Site-Specific Sounds: Mimi Xu’s Conceptual New Music Project
Let me introduce you to Carnet de Voyage, my musical project with talented London-based musician Rosey Chan. For our second concert, we have been invited to perform by Meltdown Festival 2014 curator James Lavelle, maverick founder of legendary nineties label Mo’ Wax and the man behind UNKLE. Performing at Southbank Queen Elizabeth Hall tonight, along with Neneh Cherry, we created a site-specific 3-D visual and musical journey in collaboration with director Mike Figgis and UAU Studio, an up-and-coming, cutting-edge space animation collective.
Here are a few things you need to know about Carnet de Voyage.
CDV (“traveling notebook”) is an ever-evolving musical journey. We write new compositions for each show, based on the size, intimacy, location, and vibe of the venue. The performance is multimedia, bringing together influences from classical to electronic music, and accompanied by a stunning visual narrative. No show is ever the same, as we strive to capture the moment in a place and time through our work.
What kind of music does Carnet de Voyage make?
It’s a combination of both our musical influences. “Classical electronica” is the closest term we would use. We make references to baroque, classical, romantic, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, dance, cinematic, electronica. Sometimes it is tense, sometimes emotional, sometimes cold and metronomic German techno. Other times it can be provocative, dramatic, dark, sonorous, sensual, emotional. We strive to stimulate, interact with, and engage the audience with a multisensory approach.
How Rosey and Mimi met:
Over lunch during last year’s Venice Biennale opening at Harry’s Bar. It was friendship-love at first sight, and musical chemistry came a couple of weeks later, when we decided to work with each other.
Rosey Chan: My training was predominantly classical, so my job description is “concert pianist,” but I work with many different musical genres, and I’m not sure if this term is valid anymore. As a child, my influences were very diverse, a combination of my mother’s taste (rock and pop) and my father spinning Beethoven & Elgar from the record player. Then there was my piano mentor, an outstanding jazz and classical musician, who first encouraged me to flex my improv muscles by jamming (in the style of Bill Evans and Glenn Gould) with me before every lesson at the music conservatory. This opened my mind and liberated me from the solitary confinement of the formal training I’d had, yet at the same time enhanced it significantly. I play many styles now.
Mimi Xu: I grew up in France, listening to hip-hop and French pop music. But at home, due to my father’s métier as an acoustic architect who builds opera houses and auditoriums, I was immersed in classical and concrete music. In my late teeny, I started to become obsessed with grunge, indie rock, punk, Detroit techno, and various subgenres of electronic music. Then I started to deejay and produce soundtracks for fashion shows and films, which requires an even broader palette of musical knowledge. So I can say that my musical taste is very diverse, and borderline schizophrenic.
What to expect when you see Carnet de Voyage live:
Our first concert was in an intimate environment (about seventy people at Steinway Hall in London), specially created for this space. Because of that, it allowed us to create real theater and accentuate emotions through various musical instruments: a hang (a tuned steel drum), a bass guitar, keyboards, a violin, xylophones. It also allowed the quiet moments to be really delicate and create a sense of atmosphere, like in film music. As we were very close to the audience, we were able to incorporate some performance-art ideas into the show and interact with the crowd, which was…interesting!
For Meltdown, the auditorium is obviously much bigger, so we created new visuals and adapted our show for a larger audience, involving live musicians, new compositions, and new instruments.
Who Carnet de Voyage is inspired by:
Ravel, Bach, Bill Evans, David Bowie, Terry Riley, Kraftwerk.
For more information, visit www.carnetdevoyagemusic.com, and follow CDV on Instagram @carnetdevoyagemusic.
Photos: Mike Figgis; Tara Smith