Tunes for spaces left in silence
One of the things I love most about life is the sound I’m able to create with a flute and connecting with people through that sound.
Recently, a coworker of mine at the bakery, Melissa, invited me to speak in front of an online community of women dedicated to building leadership & speaking skills.
Melissa was curating an event to celebrate International Women’s Day, and told me I could share any of my creative work. At first, I thought of reading the last part of a poem I wrote in February.
Eventually, there was no question. When it was my turn, I spoke briefly about the challenges of building a creative career, then performed some music I had improvised earlier.
When I finished playing, several people were moved to tears. To be sure, it has to do with a lot more than my playing — the end of an evening of powerful speeches, the warmth & vulnerability holding this community together, and their generosity in engaging emotionally with the music.
That said, I honestly believe performing music is a way to bridge my soul to those of the people listening, given that they are willing to listen.
This brings me to another segment I’d love to share on here… A week ago, I recorded excerpts of the same music, but dedicated to eight people who would still be living, breathing, in this exact moment, if it weren’t for the person who entered three spas around Atlanta and shot them last week.
Why would you label a piece of art with a tragedy?
Tragedy opens a wound in our collective consciousness, and something is bound to come out. Everything from grief, anger, hopelessness, pain, to numbness. Sometimes, these things find expression through art, which never claims to be the solution, but often has the effect of healing.
Even if it is healing only to me, this kind of music-making will always be worth the space it takes up.
For Daoyou Feng, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Sun Cha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, and Xiaojie Tan.
All of them were people whose names I probably never would have heard. Six of them have joined the growing list of names of Asian-Americans killed or beaten over the past year.
During my undergrad, I immersed myself in the subject of racial & cultural identities.
From humanities classes to independent research & my senior capstone, I became captivated with that elusive concept of identity predicated upon elements of culture, language, & race.
These days, even though I write less about them, the constructs of race & culture have taken up permanent residence in my mind.
They are the framework for how I make sense of the world, from everyday interactions to tragedies on a national or global scale.
On social media, the immediacy of people’s responses to a tragic event is by turns comforting, enlightening, & disconcerting.
Disconcerting because it raises the question, why do I have nothing to say?
For an issue that hits close to home — steadily-increasing violence against Asian-Americans — there is a numbness that triggers guilt, as if the inability to process something swiftly translates to indifference.
Whatever it is within me that has nothing to say, it is not indifference. I grew up in a hub of Asian diasporic communities, a daughter of Filipino immigrants. The story of these people’s lives and the tragedy of their deaths (if only accessible through news articles) feels strangely personal.
Instead of more words, I'll share one last bit of music, this time inspired by Filipina-American composer Susie Ibarra. This is my carefree attempt to play parts of "Sunbird" from her recent album "Talking Gong." The album features Claire Chase, whose technical & expressive range across flutes is in another dimension.
Heavily-filtered screenshot instead of video because tbh, when I recorded this 2 days ago, my quarantine-self wasn't fit to be seen any other way.
These are my contributions to the spaces ripped open by tragedy. First, a willingness to share in the silence needed to process what has happened. Then, a gesture of reaching towards one element of what holds us together — a collective awareness of beauty — in the only way I know how.