Interview by Julie Oh
Photos by Lindsey Rewuski
I’ve been asked a lot during this tour how I ended up making this kind of music and who my influences are. So here’s a small playlist of some key figures for me:
Tzigane by Maurice Ravel performed by Midori
I watched Midori on TV a lot when I was a tiny budding violinist. Something about her intensity and expressive eyebrows really grabbed me. There was definitely a time when I thought of becoming a concert violinist and being just like Midori.
String Quintet in E flat major, Op. 97 “American” Mvt. 2 Allegro vivo by Antonin Dvorak
Music lessons and practicing were a chore for the majority of my childhood and youth. In the summer between Grade 11 and 12 though, I had the chance to attend an amazing chamber music camp with 4 other prodigy string friends as part of a quintet. Their 5th friend couldn’t make it and I was the next best option, which was really fortunate, because this was the first time I actually remember enjoying the music I was playing and finding a love for it. We learned both Mvt. 2 and 3 from this quintet by Dvorak, as well as Mvt. 1 from K.516 by Mozart. Rehearsal time was something I was actually excited for, it was inspiring, exciting, fun, and I would willingly practice beforehand to make sure I was well prepared to play with everyone else. It’s something I think a lot about now as a music teacher, how to help my students enjoy what they’re learning and playing, instead of begrudingly going through the motions.
Gabriel Moody by FOONYAP
Admittedly when friends first started recommending FOONYAP to me I was skeptical that they were only drawing the comparison because we’re both Chinese, from the prairies, and play the violin. I listened to this earlier recording of Gabriel Moody a lot, really drawing lots of inspiration on how drippy the violin parts come together. It turns out there’s a lot more in common between the two of us the more I’ve gotten to know her, it’s a very surreal feeling when your heroes become your friends.
Experience by Daedelus on Song Exploder
This episode was really encouraging for me because I was interested in making electronic music but didn’t know how. Daedelus talks about how they see electronic music as being soundscapes that subvert expectations and described their own track as “aspirationally” electronic even though they didn’t use any electronic equipment. I didn’t know how to use any electronic gear when I started so instead I’m just working with what I already know (my violin) to make my own.
遊戲 by Elephant Gym
When I first got my delay pedal I was really excited but also totally lost about what to do with it. I stumbled upon Elephant Gym and was super inspired by the way 張凱婷 plays with the timing of their delay pedal to create flowing bass lines, especially on this track. I learned this bass line on my violin and then started making my own riffs, you can hear this technique on tracks like “glitter” and “trickle”.
Scalpel/Stradivarius by Sarah Neufeld
I played this at my first show as respectfulchild. The chord progression is just so divine, it feels so good both under the fingers and in my soul. Sarah Neufeld’s solo album Hero Brother is pretty important to me, both as a selection of avant-garde violin pieces that doesn’t use a loop pedal, but also as a collection that simply embraces the violin without need for added extras like vocals or a rhythm section.
Deviations by Economics
Continuing along my “aspirational” electronic sound, I was thinking lots about the arpeggiation that synths can automate, especially while listening to the album The Wastes by my pal Economics. I basically combined that with the delay technique that I got from Elephant Gym and the result was the track “glitter”
The Mutterer by Lonely China Day
I could listen to this track and this album endlessly. This track in particular influenced me to explore and take time with space in my music. There is a calm introspection to this track that pulls at some deep emotions that I can’t quite describe. It pretty directly influenced the composition of my track “float”, especially the intro.
Says by Nils Frahm
I remember my friend sent me the album Spaces by Nils and I really fixated on how he could do so much with very few chords. He would build intensity with minimal movement and I really enjoyed that. It’s definitely reminded me that I can be very selective about my chord structure instead of making things too busy and that sometimes it benefits to have less rather than more.
for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, here is my playlist of music and resources by Asian artists out here in the diaspora:
to those of us not born or living in Asia, those of us who have lost connection to our language and our culture, who share struggles with being exotified and tokenized, of internalized self-loathing, of trying to escape Asian stereotypes while still trying to feel Asian enough, of not knowing where we belong and who we are, of trying to prove that the struggle our immigrant parents went through was worth it, for those of us who face systematic violence and elimination through islamophobia, of feelings of isolation from being an ocean away from your family and never getting to visit them, but also those of us who are carving out and creating spaces for each other where we don’t see ourselves, who actively dismantle anti-blackness in our own communities, who decolonize our minds and our work to remind us of our responsibilities as settlers on indigenous land, who are helping to inspire the next generation, telling us that we are worth the fight, that we deserve to be here, and that we don’t have to take any of this shit. This is a thank you to each of these artists that inspires me daily, and also to the many more that are not on this list.
Your Best American Girl by Mitski
Sounds That Mark Our Words by Casey Mecjia
I Think You’re Alright by Jay Som
Sloka by Saraswathi Jones
Atalanta / Whalesong by Yamantaka// Sonic Titan
Resident Alien by Doctors & Engineers
Part-Time Woman by Vivek Shraya
The Woman That Loves You by Japanese Breakfast
Kitty in the Tree by Bitter Party
Baby’s Got It by Maylee Todd
World Gong Crazy by Han Han x Datu x Hataw
Eid Mubarak by The Kominas
The Great White North: the myth of multiculturalism in Canada featuring Yamantaka // Sonic Titan and Casey Mecija
The Sound and Fury of Mitski
Street Music-Culture in Taiwan project by Wendy Hsu of Bitter Party
100% Mixed Story featuring Maylee Todd
Han Han bring Pinoy pride to Wavelength
Real Life: Love, Loss, and Kimchi featuring Japanese Breakfast
Seeking Single White Male short film and essay by Vivek Shraya
Meet Jay Som: the New Queer Voice of Indie Rock
Meet the Desi Artists Fighting Back Against Trump with Punk Rock and ‘Post-Colonial Pop’ featuring Doctors & Engineers, The Kominas, and Saraswathi Jones
I got a lovely feature on Weird Canada’s New Canadiana page. Thanks to Marie Leblanc Flanagan for the beautiful words and to Emily Traichel for the translation
Been dreaming underground, been breathing under while soft bones feed the green. Saskatoon’s respectfulchild pulls strings through and up, looping you to the golden haze. All good things end in death, all good things come from death. A voice warming distant like prairie sundogs, trickle beats like footsteps rippling around grasping holes. Not all loops return to where they began, some pull upward.
Par les mains pulsantes de Marie LeBlanc Flanagan:
(Traduit par les rêves germinants d’ Émily Traichel)
Ses rêves germinent sous terre, sa respiration sous la surface tandis que de tendres os nourrissent le vert. Respectfulchild de Saskatoon fait traverser les cordes et les faitt monter, vous bouclant à la brume dorée. Toutes bonnes choses prennent fin dans la mort, toutes bonnes choses viennent de la mort. Une voix qui s’échauffe, lointaine comme des parhélies de la prairie; des rythmes ruisselants comme des bruits de pas qui ondulent autour des trous agrippants. Ce n’est pas toutes les boucles qui retournent où elles ont commencé, certaines se relèvent vers le haut.
[published in Issue 6 of Silence]
Artwork by Emily M. Kohlert x Dandy Lion
I have a difficult relationship with my body. There’s this disconnect between what I think I should be, and what I actually am. I used to only think of my body image issues from the perspective of being a woman because society’s beauty standard is misogynistic, it’s against women. It exists to tell women that we should be beautiful, but that we aren’t.
More recently, I’ve realized that there’s more to my story than just being a woman. I’m realizing that the beauty standard isn’t just misogynistic. It’s white supremacist, it shows us that white ideals are what is beautiful. It’s cissexist. It shows us that beautiful people only exist in a binary of being either men or women. People in that in between space don’t exist. It’s fatphobic, it’s transmisogynistic, it excludes everything that is beautiful in us.
I am neither white nor am I binary. I’ve been trying to fit my body into an image that was never made to reflect me in the first place.
All of this serves to tell me that my body is wrong. That I am wrong. And that I need to change.
I often feel guilty for being a “bad feminist” because I don’t love my body which by extension means I don’t love myself. It feels like I’m a sell-out to the beauty industry, that I’m letting them get to me, and they’re winning.
I think people will look at me and see that I don’t wear make-up, that I don’t comb my hair, and think that I don’t buy into these beauty standards or care about the way I look. And I really wish that was true. I think it’s why I try not to participate in these body grooming rituals. It’s why I put myself in photoshoots while simultaneously feeling terrified of how my picture will turn out. It’s why I wear outrageously ill-fitting clothes. These are acts to convince myself that I don’t care about my appearance by actively doing the opposite. But not all insecurity looks the same, and not everyone handles it the same way.
I don’t want anyone to read this and tell me, “Oh but don’t worry, you are beautiful!” because that’s not the point. This isn’t about me. This is much bigger than me. I don’t want to be comforted as fitting into this standard. I don’t want a beauty standard to even exist. I know that’s a difficult thing to conceptualize because it’s something that has surrounded us for so long in such a normalized way. But I think we’d really be selling our imaginations short if we don’t think that something else is possible.
I want to love myself, whether I am beautiful or not. I want the same for you.
[published in Issue 4 of Silence]
Profile name: respectfulchild
Description: “Non-binary Woman of Colour, violin and noise maker, always with an apple”
More specifically: Friends of Colour
Especially: Female, Queer, Trans Friends of Colour
Seeking friends who like music (Ex: the respectful, non-culturally appropriative kind, etc.)
Seeking friends to go to shows together
Seeking friends who make music, so I can be front row every time you play
Seeking friends who make art that isn’t based around the experience of being a straight white man
Seeking friends who have a complex relationship with their race and this “multicultural” country
My status: it’s complicated, but I’m open to new relationships
I have grown tired of listening to music made by white people, hearing poetry made by white people, seeing art made by white people.
It is everywhere.
I woke up this morning and tried to name the people of colour in our music scene. I got to maybe 12. When I listed the women of colour, including myself, we fit on one hand.
Is local music just a thing for white people, especially white men?
on race & identity
My life is bound to race. It doesn’t matter if I’m consciously noticing it in some sick-twisted way to intentionally alienate myself, or if I’m just trying to enjoy the show. I feel it. It finds me.
I once told a friend, “There are times I forget I’m Asian until it gets pointed out to me.” And they responded, “I forget you’re Asian all the time!”
I know they didn’t mean harm, but their words denied an essential part of me and made me realize how white-washed I have become. At the expense of being a part of this white arts scene, my cultural identity is fading and I’m blending in as a result. Race may be a social construct, but it’s also essential to my identity.
I do not want my Asian self to be ignored and erased, so don’t tell me that it doesn’t matter and that we’re all the same. I also don’t want my Asian self to be the only thing you see in me. I am Asian, and I am proud of it. But I am also so much more.
I need to be seen as Asian, but not only seen as Asian.
How often have I attended a concert, only to be hit with the realization of the sexism and racism in the music or in the room. How often have I been one of the few to notice these things. How often have I been one of the only women of colour present. How often has this made me feel discomfort and fear.
How frustrating and terrifying. How alienating and disappointing yet again.
It makes me not want to attend shows. It makes me feel lonely when I do.
I worry that I don’t belong. Telling me otherwise means that you are missing the point. This isn’t about just me. This isn’t about what you personally want to say to me. It’s about what this scene says to me and people like me. It says that this space is made for white people, and you can enter it, but you have to conform to us. It won’t come to you.
It’s not that people of colour don’t like local music. It’s that most of us feel that we aren’t meant to be there.
What about the other women of colour that we don’t even know because they’ve never felt comfortable enough to attend a local show or play in a band?
They don’t see themselves on stage. They don’t see themselves in the crowd.
I want to go to poetry, an art reception, a concert, and not feel in the minority.
I don’t want to feel like an anomaly. I don’t want to be a delicacy.
I need to see more of me in those around me. I need to know I am in a space that is safe from sexism and racism, but also a space that I can relate to. I need a space where I feel safe to express and enjoy myself. And I am not the only one who feels this way.
This scene is white by default. This scene is male-dominated by default. This scene is straight by default.
Our culture is white, male, and straight by default. This scene is just a reflection of that.
We need to switch off our default culture. We need to be intentional about what culture we want to create. Otherwise this scene will default to white, and me and my new friends won’t be there.
— firstname.lastname@example.org —