Chinese Electronic Music and its first festival: “Intro 2009” | #pop | #culture | #history

Electronic music, or music composed by the help of electronic instruments, such as computers or synthesizers, had a similar start in China as rock music, with the opening of the China’s borders at the beginning of the 90s.

 Electronic music, however, has always been different from rock music for it is also seen as a new means to develop traditional or classical orchestra music. Therefore also in China, the development of electronic music has taken an academic and a non-academic way. The real breakthrough for Chinese underground and avant-garde music came in the early 21st century. The reason for this was the rapid spread of information through an increasing use of the Internet, and a fast growing club scene which was introducing DJ culture on a larger scale.

This led to the birth of a young generation of Chinese experimental musicians. Through the Internet, Chinese musicians are finally able to hear and download anything happening in experimental music worldwide. This includes hearing “classics” in different areas, from Aphex Twin to Merzbow. Dickson Dee continues to release CDs and to bring many foreign experimental musicians to Mainland China while the sound artist, curator and critic Yan Jun started the Sub Jam label in Beijing.

Taiwanese composer and contemporary music theoretician Dajuin Yao established the Post-Concrete label based in Berkeley, California in 1999, and many new artists like Wang Changcun, Zhong Minje, Zhou Pei (Ronez), Zhang Anding (Zafka) started experimenting with noise and sound art. Christiaan Virant is a Beijing-based sound artist and musician.

Active in the Chinese punk underground for nearly a decade, he founded the pioneering experimental electronic act FM3 in 1999 maybe the most well known Chinese experimental music unit in the West (famous for their Buddha Machine release). Since then, Virant has worked closely with computer musician Zhang Jian to develop FM3 into one of Asia’s leading platforms for avant-garde music, performing at the Louvre Auditorium in Paris and at media and art festivals worldwide, including Maerz Musik (Berlin), Impakt (Utrecht), Dissonanze (Rome), Marke B (Berlin), Nuit Blanche (Paris), Arborescence (Marseille), Sprawl (London), Out the Window (Tokyo) and Mutek (Montreal). Zhang Jian is China’s top session keyboardist and computer musician. He has appeared on nearly every underground rock release over the past decade and was a member of many seminal Chinese rock acts, working with Zhang Chu, Zi Yue and Dou Wei, among others. He is also one of Beijing’s most sought after film and television composers, working with a diverse range of artists from filmmaker Cui Zi’en to leading stage producer Lin Zhaohua.

FM3 has been called “the most prominent experimental act in China” by the US magazine Grooves. XLR8R described FM3’s sound as “poetic noise” and the UK magazine The Wire calls FM3 live sets “meditative” and “soothing.”

In 2004, FM3 was commissioned by the Louvre museum in Paris to provide a new soundtrack for the classic 1930s film “La Croisière jaune.” The project concluded with three sold-out performances at the Louvre Auditorium in early June. FM3’s sound installations have been featured at the 2004 Shanghai Bienalle as well as the Beijing-Tokyo Art Project, the Dashazi International Art Festival and the Kulturhallen Dampfzentrale in the Swiss capital of Bern. From April-June 2005 Virant was artist-in-residence at the PROGR Zentrum Für Kulturproduktion in Bern. FM3 records for the legendary Staalplaat record label, and has also released music on Bip-Hop records in France, Mutek_Rec in Canada, Mousike records in Italy, Nascente records in the UK, Leerraum records in Switzerland and Sublime Frequencies in the United States.

The years 2000 to 2003 are definitely the start of some kind of “scene”; one which is obviously modelled after a very different kind of “genealogy” to the West. The important connection in the West to classical education at universities is not relevant here. Neither is there a history of experimentalism to build on with a more or less close connection between different generations of experimentalists.

In China, the experimental music scene is young – in every sense of the word.” In 2009 China played host to its first ever electronic music festival. The festival, which goes under the name of Intro, is a one day event that took place in the capital city of Beijing in two separate locations. Beginning at 1 PM, the first phase of Intro took place at the city’s D-Park plaza, and featured a raft of China’s electronic talent as well as techno warrior Chris Liebing, Philipp from M.A.N.D.Y., and sample-happy minimal techno duo Italoboyz. Just as things were winding down at D-Park, the party moved on to a warehouse location, where there was a big presence from artists on China’s own Acupuncture Records imprint. Elvis.T, Terry Tu and X.L.F. played their second sets of the day, and they were also joined by some of the European special guests that had played earlier on the main stage. Ten hours, twenty artists, ten thousand people, and 46-thousand square meters of open-air plaza, a Bauhaus-style plaza, sound-and-laser light performances making high-powered projections, here, electronic music was the focus, and over 10-thousand enthusiastic fans danced under the open sky from noon to midnight.

Though still at the developmental stage, electronic music in China already has a stable fan base and the number keeps rising. The party was supported and included as part of the annual “Meet in Beijing” art festival, which is sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Culture.

DJ Elvis.T, Acupuncture Records, says, “We’re much honoured to be included in the festival and we regard it as more than cultural exchange. We would like to promote a kind of lifestyle where people dance to good music, relax and enjoy their lives. That is the most important part.” Like the motto of the concert says, “Ideas Need to Reach Out”. “Intro 2009” is such a platform, one that welcomes people who love life and music to meet in Beijing and let their cultures harmonize.