秦思源X声音博物馆 Colin Siyuan Chinnery X Sound Museum

采访时间:2017年6月14日  Interview Date: June 14, 2017

秦思源(Colin Siyuan Chinnery),艺术家,中英混血。8岁学功夫,12岁返英读书,上世纪90年代担任北京“穴位乐队”主唱。先后做过大英图书馆管理员、中国国家图书馆国际敦煌学项目主任、英国大使馆文化教育处艺术项目总监、尤伦斯当代艺术中心副馆长、上海博览会国际当代艺术展总监。

Colin Siyuan Chinnery is an artist of mixed Chinese-British heritage. He learned Chinese Kung Fu at the age of eight and went back to the UK for school at the age of twelve. In the 1990s, Chinnery was the singer for the band “Xuewei” in Bejing. Later, he served as a researcher at the British Library, Head of the International Dunhuang Project of the National Library of China, Arts Manager for the British Council in Beijing, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) and Director of ShContemporary art fair in Shanghai.


In previous interviews, Chinnery has said several times that pigeons in Beijing are different to other places, for there is the tradition of attaching whistles to their backs which generate a unique sound while they are flying. From his perspective, every city boasts its own sound properties. It is a sound history created by the people who are living at each moment.


Recording the History of a City through sound

秦思源出生于文化世家,其父是英国汉学家秦乃瑞(John Chinnery,1924-2010),其母陈小莹是陈源(笔名陈西滢)与凌叔华之女。外祖母与林徽因、冰心齐名为“民国三大才女”,外祖父曾是鲁迅文学上的主要论敌。

Chinnery’s family has a rich background in culture. His father John Chinnery (1924-2010) was a British sinologist, and his mother Hsiaoying Chinnery is the daughter of Chen Yuan (also known as Chen Xiying under the pen name) and Ling Shuhua. His grandmother Ling Shuhua, together with Lin Huiyin and Xie Wanying (Bing Xin), are acclaimed as the “Three Talented Women of the Republic of China,” and his grandfather Chen Yuan was a major literary opponent to Lu Xun, one of the greatest writers in contemporary Chinese history.


His grandparents once lived in Beijing’s Shijia Hutong, which was transformed into a museum in 2012 with funding from The Prince’s Charities Foundation. As a descendant of the house’s old owner and an artist with a unique perspective,  Chinnery was selected as the consultant of the museum. Inspired by his curating experience for Sound and the City, Chinnery put forward the idea of presenting the unique sound culture of old Beijing.


In a room less than five square meters, there are hundreds of different sounds: the yelling of Shaobing hawkers in the early morning, clangs of grinders, the clatter of sewing machines, songs of girls skipping rubber bands and station broadcasting of ticket sellers in trams. Those sounds that have disappeared or are disappearing are parts of Beijing’s history. Chinnery said: “Both sounds and smells are intuitive memories. And records in sounds can transform an objective history into our own personal histories.”


Discovering the World with Our Ears

三年前史家胡同博物馆里的这个声音项目拓展成一个声音博物馆的想法,可是因为资金有限,秦思源不得不暂停收集新声音。他说,很多朋友乐意帮忙,但这种方式持续性不够。直到今年,声音博物馆再启向前,秦思源的项目具象为两个方面,一是以主题和时间节点为线索,整理记录北京上个世纪30-90年代的声音历史,以录音师、IT人士、历史学家等专业合作为主,与北京的古玩收藏以及各行各业的声音见证者合作。此外,他还有一个名为“Embodied Sound”的国际当代艺术项目,对全世界的公众开放,希望普通人去记录当下身边的声音,用耳朵观察世界。

Constrained by a lack of funds, Chinnery had to stop collecting more sounds three years ago. He explained that many friends were willing to help, but this wasn’t a sustainable way to develop the project. However, his idea had developed into a conceptual sound museum, which he has started to develop in earnest this year. His new project can be considered as two parts. Part one is to collect and record sounds of Beijing in 1930s-1990s under different of themes and timelines. This part will be guided by a professional team consisting of sound engineers, IT engineers, and historians, and will be joined in by antique collectors of Beijing and sound recorders from all sectors. The other part is an international contemporary art project called “Embodied Sound”, a project open to all people across the world. Chinnery hopes that the public can join in the art project to record sounds around them and to discover the world with their ears.


“The phone was used for listening but now is for taking photos and videos. After sharing those photos and videos in WeChat, people forget them and then only care about those Likes,” said Chinnery, “this is the symptom of the times and is also a demonstration of losing our first-hand experience of the world. If we put aside those daily routines and use our ears to interact with the world, we may find something exciting and unexpected.”


Time Tunnel of Sound


Years ago in Beijing, the taxi meter would play a jingle for the passengers. Every time the music starts, it would take Chinnery back to the beginning of the 21st century. “The memory is easily perceived and my whole body is taken back to the time of that sound.” He wondered that if more duplicated sounds could be made, will they arouse other people with the same resonance? Will those sounds bring people into the past time as well? Actually, Chinnery understands that the reproduction of sounds is the weaving of a time tunnel.

1857年,法国发明家里昂·史考特(Leon Scott)发明了Phonoautograph声波振记器,这机器也只能记下声波形状而已。可见,声音记录史不足两百年,声音作为珍贵的载体,对世界影响甚远。秦思源说:“我只能回溯到民国时期,必须有活人来考证。如果有人记得溥仪小时候在皇宫说话的样子,他得有100多岁了。”

Although Frenchman Leon Scott invented the Phonautograph in 1857, it only transcribes sound waves as undulations or other deviations in a line. It indicates that the history of the sound recording is not as long as 200 years. However, sounds as precious carriers have a far-reaching effect on the world. Chinnery said: “I am only able to find sounds dating back to the Republic of China. But these sounds still need the input and feedback of people still alive. If somebody could remember the voice of the child Puyi (the last Emperor of China) in the Forbidden City, he/she must be well over 100 years old by now.”

是否有声音是不需要存在的?比如说噪音。对于这个问题,秦思源快速回说“没有”,并强调:“声音不是独立存在的,总有一个发声物,你可以说汽车鸣笛可以不存在,可你能说汽车不需要存在吗?”之所以有Embodied Sound这样社会参与的项目,也可以让我们在不断改造我们的世界的时候,有一种意识——我们还可以有更多好声音。

Regarding the question whether there are such sounds that do not need recording, like noises. Chinnery answered without hesitation “No.” He stressed that “Sounds cannot exist without sound sources. We can say that a car horn does not need to exist, but can you say that the car does not need to exist?” That is why social engagement projects like Embodied Sound are launched. By taking part in those projects, people can have the consciousness that while the world is changing, there are still more good sounds need to be recorded.

 All rights reserved, contact Lenore to know more.