Sun Ra Arkestra: a Mythical Rebirth

By Alexandra Huang| 18 September 2019
The American avant-garde jazz band Sun Ra Arkestra is whimsically dubbed after the ancient Egyptian mystagogues in worship of the Sun. Led by the eponymous pianist of the band since the 1930s, the musicians have created some outlandish soundscapes described as “dark, kinetic sounds bursting with spiky electric piano or fuzzy keyboard lines and collective horn freak-outs that would likely send most punk rockers screaming from the room.” Eerie and bizarre as their music sounds, these improvisers blatantly claim themselves to be “tone-scientist” and “architects of the plane of discipline,” namely, scientists of sound who can achieve mathematic precision.

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Recomposing Caesuras: The Silent Creativity of Sounds in A Quiet Place

Alexandra Huang | August 8, 2018
Ghastly verisimilar, aurally suffocating, and acoustically pioneering, John Krasinski’s sci-fi thriller A Quiet Place (2018) enacts the post-apocalyptic survival story revolving around the families of Lee and Evelyn (played by John Krasinski and Emily Blunt). Entangled in a fatal hide-and-seek human hunt in an unidentified wasteland set in America, the eerily predatory monsters attempt to trace the protagonists by utilizing auditory clues to target their prey across the ravaged planet. Witnessing the tragic deprivation of their youngest child by the reptilic monstrosities, the family is reduced to a miserable, quasi-mimical way of life against the backdrop of elegiac, death-like silence.

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Transcending Incidental Music: Musical Theatricality in Schumann’s Manfred Overture

Alexandra Huang | May 12, 2018
Robert Schumann (1810-1856) is a music composer in high Romanticism. His symphonic rearrangement of the dramatic poem Manfred by Lord Baron Byron (1788-1824) to this day shares the limelight with Byron’s original text. The Manfred Overture is the opening introduction set in the beginning of his Symphony Op.115, Manfred: Dramatic Poem with Music in Three Parts along with the Overture (1848). In terms of genre, the piece is the apotheosis of incidental music, music composed for atmospheric accompaniment for dramatic actions in a play. Originating from ancient Greece, incidental music is a musical practice that looms large in the nineteenth century (Oxford Companion to Music). Interestingly, Shumann’s Manfred Overture is also a critique of the genre in that the place of music is as important as the dramatic scenarios.

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