by Chaklam Ng & Jackie Lou
Like music, language has an underlying rhythm. Different languages have different prosodic patterns. For example, English is stress-timed, which means some syllables are longer, others shorter; whereas Cantonese is syllable-timed, with syllables of equal length. Therefore, the act of speaking invariably creates interesting rhythms.
This sound installation is a device that is like an interpreter between speech and music. It records a dialogue between two persons, but rather than translating it to another language, an algorithm converts it into rhythm and tone, which are then played by a series of music instruments. Thus by simply speaking to each other, two interlocutors can generate a new piece of music together.
Chaklam Ng is a Hong Kong-based music instrument designer and sound artist who graduated from the City University of Hong Kong as a multimedia designer. He is currently the director of sound design collective Oblik Soundwork and guitar luthier shop Fretsmith Guitar Lab respectively.
While his approach is very hands-on, Ng also incorporates computer-aided design and engineering thinking to musical instrument design. His passion to shape both music and instruments at the same time has led him to various collaborations with local musicians and artists.
When Ng is behind the wheel, his works are often created with the community at large in mind, and his public installations have been featured in major events such as Sónar and deTour.
Dr Jackie Jia Lou is a Senior Lecturer in Sociolinguistics, the Department of Languages, Cultures, and Applied Linguistics, Birkbeck, University of London. Her research and teaching focus on the relationship and interaction between language and city. Recently, she has also been exploring creative approaches to communicate linguistic knowledge to the wider public.