Deep interview of 2023WMFT Artists
Dear Music Lover,
Have you ever been captivated by the drum beats in music? Or perhaps you've experienced the enthralling spectacle of a percussion show, blending visual effects with an immersive sound experience? Whether your answer is yes or no, allow us to introduce you a creative percussion ensemble in Taiwan: Freedom Beat & Cheer.
Following their impactful debut of experimental sounds at the 2023 World Music Festival @ Taiwan, we've had the chance to delve into the creative process of Freedom Beat & Cheer. Their performance left a lasting impression on both the audience and the delegates.
“HEMI DEMI SEMI” Album Release Day / Photo Credit : Hu Ting-Jie
From Imaginary Sights to Visible Sound
Established in 2010, all three percussionists in Freedom Beat underwent extensive training at an academy, amassing over a decade of stage performance experience. They joined forces with Cheer in 2011, blending electronic music with percussion while seamlessly integrating elements from pop, rock, dance, and other genres. Moreover, adept at instrument modification and fabrication, they regularly repurpose everyday items, crafting intriguing and unique sound effects.
When talked about the “visible sound”, they recounted a transformative experience in France that reshaped their approach to performance.“After a performance at the Festival Off d’Avignon in 2012, a spectator came up to us, expressing how amazed he was to visualize images while listening to our music. Touched by his words, we realized that this was precisely the impact we aimed to deliver to their audience.”
“The definition and expectation of ‘visible sound’ can go into two different directions. In a musical theater setting, the goal is to craft a shared life image or scene. For instance, in our play 'Fifties,' we integrated live foley effects to create a more relatable experience rooted in people's everyday lives. However, in a live concert, the imagery is more abstract, open to interpretation based on the audience's life experiences.”
Freedom Beat & Cheer members (LTR) : Gray, Cheer, Clara, Yeh
Auditory + Visual + Theatrical = A Unique Innovative Ensemble
Their awakening in 2012 spurred their evolution toward musical theater, integrating elements like dialogue and plot. This shift not only elevated the auditory dimension but also heightened their focus on the visual aspects of their performances. During their return to Avignon in 2013, a child calling out “Taiwan!” from across the street resonated deeply with the ensemble. “This moment made us feel a cultural responsibility we needed to fulfill,” they shared.
By merging performance and drama, they embody the roles of both musicians and performers. When discussing these dual roles, they remarked, “It’s incredibly fulfilling! We experience the audience's laughter and even move them to tears. Balancing between actor and musician is undeniably demanding, yet tremendously rewarding.”
“Gao Xingjian once proposed the theory of ‘all-round actor’ and ‘tripartite,’ he believes that actors on stage should have three identities at the same time: The actor himself in daily life, the neutral actor, and finally the role. Some training in the process of drama also affects our limbs on the stage, this benefited a lot.” — Freedom Beat & Cheer
“Sway” from the latest album “HEMI DEMI SEMI”
*The song incorporates the structure and sound of techno music, fusing it with Western keyboard glockenspiel, distinctive accordion sounds, and the synchronized strikes of a bass drum by three individuals.
Oscillating between Eastern and Western : “HEMI DEMI SEMI”
The digital release of the album “HEMI DEMI SEMI” took place in July, kicking off their plans for designing and producing physical EPs and scheduling more shows. Alongside the album, they're also delving into a new sound experiment that fuses foley with Taiwanese literary elements.
The album's name stems from three words— “HEMI” in Greek, “DEMI” in French, and “SEMI”in Latin—each signifying “half.” This title encapsulates the album's essence: a blend of “half analog and half digital; half classical and half modern; half virtual and half real.” This creates a unique musical experience through collaboration from two different musical backgrounds.
“We also integrate Taiwanese percussion instruments and melodies, aiming for the audience to organically immerse in the island's flavor without even realizing it.”
The album's unique rhythms and tempo capture both the city's bustling energy and the natural flow, presenting a blend of diverse musical elements that imbue the entire work with vitality and diversity. Meticulously produced, the album demonstrates exceptional sound engineering, ensuring each note holds its distinct place and sound, and every track narrates its unique story.
Layering Harmony, Achieving Equilibrium
When it comes to their creative process, a certain routine becomes evident.
“The songwriting journey typically commences with Cheer's demo collection. Gray sifts through these tracks for potential development, shaping the percussion and melody components. Once Cheer receives these new elements, he orchestrates a reconfiguration of the materials. This organic evolution lays the foundation for deeper discussions and adjustments within the band before a song reaches completion, with some tracks undergoing seven or eight versions.”
Moreover, addressing the challenges encountered during the creative process, they delineate two key aspects:
“Our initial challenge revolves around musical genres. In the past, while performing classical music, we sometimes noticed audience members nodding off. However, contemporary genres like minimalism can be truly captivating when understood. Consequently, our effort has been to strike a balance between the appeal of popular and contemporary music. The second challenge involves sculpting the sonic landscape. In traditional concert halls, real instruments dominate the sonic spectrum. Introducing electronic elements posed the need to fuse digital and real sounds seamlessly. Extensive experimentation led us to discover a harmonious blend that we are genuinely content with.”
Freedom Beat & Cheer at 2023 WMFT
A Journey with Percussions, Resonation and Interaction
“Music is a form that can directly break through language barriers and has a strong emotional appeal. Its energy can make people dance to the music and resonate, making it a good communication channel for everyone.” — Freedom Beat & Cheer
In expressing their goals, they highlighted a noble ambition to enliven children in need with the power of music. “Children possess an innate curiosity about the world, and their connection to sound and music is immediate and primal. The music they experience remains imprinted within them, capturing the essence of the moment.”
The conversation culminated with reflections on their pivotal moments of accomplishment: “Our explorations in deconstructing and reconstructing musical instruments have heightened our sensitivity to sounds. Through the fusion of theatrical body training, technology, and the evolution of electronic music, we've evolved into who we are today. In a recent meeting, we realized that our rehearsals and unspoken bond occupy two-third of our lives! The time and shared memories represent our most significant achievement.”
They've taken a massive leap by not just performing but also engaging with different individuals to understand their forthcoming paths. Eagerly anticipating performances across numerous locations, they aspire to disseminate their energy and music worldwide. The next time you encounter their music, don't hesitate to join in and groove alongside them!
“No Tea” from the latest album “HEMI DEMI SEMI”
*The choice of traditional acoustic instruments brings a playful wind instrument and crisp Middle Eastern drum frame sounds, creating the liveliness of a traditional skill celebration.
Freedom Beat at OzAsia Festival and Festival Off d'Avignon / Photo Credit : Zheng Ya-Yun, Wang Wen-Yan
More information of Freedom Beat & Cheer