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Angela Wai Nok Hui
Let Me Tell You Something Marthe Lisson , November 9th, 2021 09:19

Percussionist Angela Wai Nok Hui explores the sounds of toy instruments and homesickness in compositions by Timothy Cape, Gregory Emfietzis, Lucy Landymore, Angus Lee, and Jasmin Kent Rodgman

Angela Wai-Nok Hui is a classically trained percussionist and timpanist who performs as a soloist and chamber musician and collaborates with ensembles and composers in the new music and contemporary classical field. She is also forging her niche as a sound and performance artist and as such actively advocates for new music. For her debut Let Me Tell You Something, Hui commissioned five composer friends to write pieces that explore themes of identity, home, and childhood memories, inspired by her own biography and the lost feeling of being 'at home'. She arrived in England as a teenager to study music. Now, sixteen years later, she neither feels at home in her native Hong Kong nor in London. The composers were given almost total freedom in their approach – except the pieces had to be for percussion and/or timpani and had to include toy instruments. Sounds of which Hui has recently been exploring in her work.

The result is a six-track album with compositions by Timothy Cape, Gregory Emfietzis, Lucy Landymore, Angus Lee, and Jasmin Kent Rodgman. All of them are performed by Hui. Even though the composers have not met each other, their compositions bear a similar character; they are quiet, minimalist, serene. Landymore portrays ‘Home’ with tranquil, lullaby-esque melodies interspersed with unexpected cuts and eerie harmonic turns. Cape's over twelve-minute ‘Sorry For The Late Reply’ is, apart from percussions, a sound collage of short samples of disturbing human and non-human sounds. Emfietzis' equally long piece ‘Hestia’ combines soundscapes, percussion, and spoken words by Hui. We hear her voice again, coming from a cassette recorder, reminiscing, in Kent Rodgman’s ‘This Land Is Yxxr Land’.

Listening to Let Me Tell You Something, I enjoy diving into the sounds and soundscapes, getting lost in them. At the same time, without any prior knowledge of the record’s concept and the composers, the compositions are at times pretty abstract. Pieces like Cape’s ‘Sorry for the Late Reply’ reveal their full potential in a live setting, contextualised and embedded in Hui’s movements, light effects, and short films. On stage, she creates immersive performances that bring the themes of identity and home alive and give abstract sounds a ‘face’. It makes a difference in understanding the compositions to see Hui behind a table of kid’s toys and household objects, dropping a marble into a singing bowl or tracing the rim of a glass half-full with water to produce a wavering sound.

Recordings might not be the easiest format for a solo percussionist, but Hui’s concept and the compositions are, despite moments of being lost in abstraction, strong enough to keep me listening and to make me listen again. And they leave an appetite wanting to see more of her live in action.