In an attempt to seek out local experimental musicians, JUICE journeys anxiously in search of Goh Lee Kwang, a Malaysian sound and media artist who has performed on an international scale. Most of the time with broken gadgets or VCD players. Fark glitch house! This guy’s the real thing.
Text: June Low
Image Goh Lee Kwang
When we arrive, someone who looks like Lee Kwang is surrounded by a purple aura and appears to be conducting an orchestra of wild flowers, deep in concentration. Kinda like the Phantom of the Opera, except in a field, minus the organ. We tread slowly, afraid of interrupting when suddenly, the phantom stops, turns around slowly and says, “Experimental music is very interesting. It can be anything as long as you keep an open mind. I always…hear…lots of possibilities.”
How does he know why we’re here? Had he become omniscient since his last gig at KLPac? No, that couldn’t be it.
“There are no boundaries to experimental music, the boundaries are only those that the artist himself creates,” he adds before walking slowly towards a wooden house in the distance.
“I did a performance at Five Arts Centre back in 2003 with 2 broken VCD players and nothing else. I also did a dance performance with feedback from the soundsystem being fed back into the room’s acoustics.”
This is too good to be true; if only all interviews were like this! Completing a round of high fives, we realise that the phantom has started speaking again.
“The scene in Malaysia is like a big, black canvas with very few people painting on it. Most of my audiences are young people, usually with a musical background. They either love it or they hate it. Those who love it might come again the next time, but those who hate it don’t even bother to say ‘Hi’ to you anymore. I think they’re too shocked.”
What had happened to the Lee Kwang we knew? He was always so approachable at shows, always ready to show us his work and new instruments…
“People want to go to a pop concert, they want to hear the songs they like and the ones they know, and they want to sing along. But why? Aren’t those songs already on a CD? They can sing whenever they want. The challenge of experimental music for the audience is to join the adventure, to go through an imaginative and creativity journey. In Malaysia, most people still have very limited experience with variations of music. They are very passive, waiting to be entertained by the music. Some are shocked just because the band has no vocalist; I think they’re used to having a singer onstage and other musicians serving as the backdrop. I actually think experimental music is very accessible; the audience doesn’t have to know the lyrics or own the CD before they go to the concert.”
At the house, he sits on a rocking chair and sips on lemonade.
“I’d consider my sounds ‘human’ or ‘organic’, even though they’re produced using computers and electronic instruments. To most people, an experimentalist works like a scientist, in cold blood. But I am human; I create my sounds with heart and soul.”
He swirls his drink and the ice clinks against the glass. As the clinking grows louder, a giant cloud of smoke envelopes him and he begins to fade away, bit by bit, until he disappears altogether.
We don’t know what to make of it. Was he even the Lee Kwang we were looking for?
To enter into the realms of Goh Lee Kwang’s mysterious sounds, head to www.myspace.com/gohleekwang. We conclude our Experimental Odyssey next with Siew Wai & Yandsen.