Short Writing: Analysis of “Tsi̍t Lâu Tsuí” (一流水) by Yannick Dauby

“Tsi̍t Lâu Tsuí” is a project by French sound artist Yannick Dauby, recorded at Penghu Archipelago and published on January 2015.

Penghu is named after its special features: surging billows outside the port and calm waves like a lake inside the port. It consists of almost 100 islands and islets and it is located at the west of Taiwan. Penghu Archipelago is famous for the traditional walled villages, natural rocks and numerous temples. Citizens there mostly earn a living by fishing, and because of the ever-changing climate, they rely on religious a lot. Majority of the fishermen believe in Taoism, and therefore in the 19 islands with inhabitants, there are around 200 temples. Other than that, Penghu Archipelago is listed as “National Scenic Area” in Taiwan, for its natural Basalt and multidimensional culture.

Yannick Dauby is a sound artist born in Nice, France. The Frenchman has been listening to the environment ever since, especially those with high level of social and geographical context. In 2007, he moved to Taiwan and continued his journey on field recording. His electroacoustic music are based on found objects, analogue devices and digital processing. With limited linguistic skills, Dauby is being more sensitive to the environment. He focused on non-verbal communications and non-spoken sound activities, making his recordings more relevant to show the special identity of the place. In Taiwan, cultural events can be in a temple in the suburbs of Taipei or in the Central Mountains. However, such unanimously accepted “valuable traditional practices” are not documented. Seeing the urge of keeping such values, Yannick Dauby took his microphones and headphones with him around Taiwan, creating precious projects for people to know more about the treasured island from another perspective.

In order to record the social activities in Penghu, Dauby stayed in Shili, a village just between the inner and outer seas, during the first half of 2013. He settled an experimental music studio in an old building and started field recording, beachcombing and studying the reef animals. From his studio he can hear the seashores and announcements of the itinerant sellers as well as the rituals from a temple nearby. He gathered sounds up and below the surface on the Penghu Archipelago, like the underwater fauna, the omnipresent waves beating the recorder and the shores, soundscapes of harbors, music played during funerals or special events from the temples and shortwave radio broadcasts. Adding in improvisations using old artefacts collected on the beaches and also the analog electronic instruments, Yannick composed two sides on the record, producing an electroacoustic reverie of the shores and their inhabitants.

Both tracks are over ten minutes, richly filled with the natural and cultural environment Penghu has. The first track is 18 minutes and 48 seconds long. The keynotes are the strong wind and the splashes. The first 4 minutes are mostly the background (the waves and wind) and seems to be heard from a cave. From the 4.40-mark, human activities are shown. Firstly, it is the announcement from the island welcoming the visitors to Penghu, and then there are wooden and metal chimes tinkling half a minute later. The chimes and the waves are alternately heard, until on around the 9-minute mark the chimes take over for a while and dies down slowly. In the second half of the first track, there are sounds from the temples. It is suspected that some kind of services is taking place and there are sounds like Gongs and people singing songs. Such sounds continue until almost the end of the 16-minute mark, in which the sounds of wave splashing and also the service music gets louder and suddenly disappear. The sounds from the temple are considered as the soundmark since it shows the most special culture of Penghu. In between the soundmark, there is another sound signal where some sharp objects are drawn across the pipes. After the soundmark fades out, the waves seem to be calmer and at the last minute of the track, the perspective changes for the last time, from the surface of Penghu diving down and back to the shore, where soft sound of the water can be heard.

The second track is 16 minutes and 16 seconds long. The keynote is still the waves, but the waves in this track are calmer. In the first 2 minutes, the perspective is below the sea surface, and occasionally the sound of seagulls can be heard. At around 2 minutes and a half, the perspective changes back to the sea surface and a few footsteps can be heard. After that, there are some sound like a ship’s engine and a signal from it at 2.47. At the 3.30-mark to around the 6-minute mark, other human activities can be heard. Some music, which is suspected to be from the radio, is heard from around 3.30 to 4.30. Then again, there are Gongs and cymbals, and it should be a Taoism funeral from the temple. While the service music is played, there is another broadcast being heard at around 5.00, eventually echoing at 6.10 and fades out slowly. In between the music from the temple, there are also sounds like water splashing and the birds are chirping very loudly. It could be representing the birds finding fish at the sea and fighting for food. At around 6.50 until almost the 10-minute mark, cicada can be heard. Although the amplitude in this section is large, only soft sounds can be heard. The water is almost not moving, and not even sound of wind can be heard. At around 11.40, there are the sounds of a shower, and it is replaced by birds chirping again at almost the 13-minute mark. At the 13th minute to 16th minute of the track, Dauby composed some electronic sounds to end the whole soundscape.

“Tsi̍t Lâu Tsuí”, 一流水 in Chinese, means “the cycles of tides”. In the first track, it can be representing the busy morning and afternoon, where there are visitors to the island and temples are opened for believers to do services. The waves should be recorded outside the port, where it is said that waves are surging and there should be stronger wind. The second track can be representing Penghu in the evening, the midnight and to the early morning. As there is a flow of temple services in the first half of the track, and cicada represents the night. The calm water sound should be recorded inside the port, just to highlight more on the midnight time. Birds heard from afar at the end represent another day coming again. The two tracks combined is actually the meaning of a day or even a lifetime, being energetic and busy at a young age and slow, calm as we get older. After death leads to another life, just like the tides repeatedly breaking, softening, then tumbling again. This also shows the Taoism point of view to life, to reborn and to live eternally, just like a never-ending cycle. From this, more of the culture of Penghu is reflected to outsiders, and Dauby’s aim to keep and show the culture is fulfilled.

What I like the most is the period where the chimes starts tinkling until the music from the temple fades out in the first track. At the background, waves and winds are also louder to highlight more of the main point. However, I think that there are too much electronic sounds artificially made into the tracks, especially at the last few minutes of the second track. The ending is not reflected clearly to the audience and some of the sounds give confusion to the audience on what they are actually representing. Other than that, the tracks are very reflective for us to think about our lives.

1. Information of Penghu Archipelago
2. Yannick Dauby’s personal website
3. Information of “Tsi̍t Lâu Tsuí”
4. Complete audio file of “Tsi̍t Lâu Tsuí”


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