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The Substation presents: Bani Haykal's 'rethinking music'

Already a published poet and accomplished musician (vocalist and principal songwriter for the well known b-quartet), Bani Haykal has been working hard with The Substation Associate Artist Research Programme. The Substation’s Associate Artist Research Programme (AARP) is a 2-year residency programme where selected art practitioners are provided with curatorial, financial, administrative, and operational support to pursue and develop individual interdisciplinary art research and practice. Currently interested in relationships between music and culture, Bani Haykal is developing several systems pertaining to storytelling and music, mirroring modern day Singapore.

We catch up with Bani Haykal on the day before his showcase ‘rethinking music’ at The Substation:

Hi Bani Haykal, without giving too much away, tell us about your upcoming projects. 

In 2012 I've decided to dedicate time and practice collaborating with a variety of creative people, from visual artists to choreographers. Most of the collaborative projects this year have been presenting me with a challenging learning curve, which I find crucial in personal development.

But on top of that, and also as part of my work with The Substation under the Associate Artist Research Programme (AARP), I will be starting preliminary process work for the final presentation in 2013. The performance will be a combination of the various developments made pertaining to music, narratives, performance and movement.

How different is it from your past projects? 

The past few years, my solo work revolved around exploring various instruments to discover a personal sonic palette for new music works. Then, these explorations lacked direction, but now I’m finding myself reconstructing ideas and experiments to create new works with context after having pulled apart so many things from creating sounds to writing a narrative.

The showcase is called ‘rethinking music’, how can the society contribute to rethinking music? 

I feel that this is a very complex question, which requires a lot of dialogue in order to find the relevance of music made in Singapore. When I first proposed the project, I had a really fixed idea on how things should be. But later I realize and come to appreciate that anything, which has a community-based (or led) purpose, should not necessarily involve or be inclined to meeting an objective. Rather I think and believe it should, for lack of a better word, be organic, and I think it applies itself quite immediately to music making.

I mean to say, if the development is slow and seems to be taking too long a time, it's still a positive development and should be seen as progress. If it comes to a standstill and nothing happens, it's still positive, or at least as practitioners we must be conscious of the lull and still be able to express it. The practitioners make up the community as much as the audience do.

The attitude towards original content made in Singapore and most importantly the culture of appreciation will continuously evolve. Whether we choose to feed it steroids or to nurture it progressively, I feel that at the end of the day it's up to the content creators, the creatives, to still be able to function and work in any given situation. if we, the individual practitioners, do not choose to keep creativity functioning, i feel there's really nothing much that can be done, no matter how much money is pumped in.

In ‘rethinking music’, I'm charting my personal development and interests in expanding my sonic grammar, and to share my interpretation of music, or its various possibilities. I feel that it is only a success if continuous dialogue occurs, and that both practitioners and the audience would converse about their openness towards the pleasures of listening. I find that this project, as it progresses, looks past the idea of music, rather it looks into our ability to listen and to appreciate every nuance of it, not just the music involved, but the continuum, the present sonic and music landscape that we are (or, surround ourselves) in.

How do you think music is important to our identity? 

Without having to be too explicit, the music landscape in Singapore, one which would/could imply identity, is already dynamic. But diving just a little deeper, does the existence of the varied music traditions in Singapore, aside from providing an understanding or an illustration of the many cultural backgrounds present, express the social landscape well? Do the various music cultures prove cultural integration or multiculturalism alone?

Perhaps it is only as important as how society would want their cultural identity to be. And for me, music is one way to implicitly illustrate our identity.

What inspired you to go into research? 

When i first listened and read about the works of American composer/musician Anthony Braxton.

What can we expect for Wednesday’s showcase and Friday's workshop?

On Wednesday I will be presenting a work in progress, sketches of the final presentation done solo. On Friday, aside from workshopping ideas and concepts developed through the research, the session will end with an open improv session, where anyone who's interested to explore their personal practices are welcome to collaborate and perform.

For all the other days, the space is open to the public to participate in an improv jam or to dialogue.

'rethinking music' by Bani Haykal  
Wednesday 14 March – Sunday 18 March 2012, 12pm-9pm

The Substation Gallery

Admission: Free (donations are welcome)