Okay, for a moment, I want you to stop thinking of music as entertainment, and stop thinking of musicians as being the ones fully responsible for bringing their music to you and spoon-feeding you its meaning.
Instead, just for a short while, consider the process of making music more as a collaborative effort, where you and the musician share equal obligation in the end result. This halfway point is exactly where Zhang Liming will meet you, and the location will look different every time you go there.
This idea of sound composition functioning primarily to create opportunities for pro-active listening is the basis for much of what goes on in the experimental music genre, but the lack of understanding of experimental music has a lot to do with the listeners not really grasping what their role is supposed to be. The musician also has to embrace this role of listening in order to understand where the audience is coming from, which is clearly something Zhang Liming has thought about:
I constantly ask myself, ask myself what I’m listening to? How do I listen to it? Why do I listen to it in that way? The rules of listening are influenced by any artist and any work; they set up gradually, privately. Based on the ideas I jotted down in a notebook in the dark before sleep every night, I “produced” these pieces, with audio samples from music, film, radio, telephone, computer games and some field recordings.
It sounds a bit out-there, and sure, I’ll admit it is, but when you listen to the tracks and try to put the focus more on your role of listening, and leave Zhang Liming to worry about his role of presenting opportunities for listening, the relationship goes a lot more smoothly. I find these kinds of experimental albums are better experienced in a quiet room, preferably with a decent set of headphones, because if the whole point is to listen, then you can bet there are lots of subtle details in there for you to pick up on… and rest assured you’ll hear new and different ones every single time you come back to this collection of recordings.
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