I saw C. Spencer Yeh, a Taiwanese-born improv violinist now based out of Cincinnati, at Gallery 5 in Richmond, VA last night. [The show organized by the HzCollective, of which I'm a member. ] With John Wiese, a LA-based artist, Yeh played a set of improv noise, a sonic assemblage of amplified violin, bows, hands, mouth, voice, feedback, contact mics, effect pedals, etc. It was thrilling to see Yeh and Wiese inventing live digital and analog sounds of varying textures and timbres. Some moments felt tactile and visceral, whereas other moments were almost static and elusive. Yeh is currently on a tour with John Wiese and Carlos Giffoni, both of which are well-known artists on the noise circuit.
C. Spenser Yeh is one of the members of Burning Star Core. The trio is comprised of Robert Beatty (acoustic apprasier & electronics), Mike Shiflet (computer, electronics, & voice), and C. Spencer Yeh (voice, violin, electronics, junkbox, & trumpet). Burning Star Core has reached a cult status within the scene by having a prolific career - having released countless recordings on various formats including cassettes, 7" vinyl records, and CD's. Since 2006, Yeh has collaborated with Wiese on a duo recording and performance project. Over the year, he has collaborated with Double Leopards, Comets on Fire, John Olson (of Wolf Eyes and Dead Machines), Hair Police, Thurston Moore's Dream/Aktion Unit, the Hototogisu, Pengo, Pete Nolan (of Magik Markers), Jessica Rylan, Larry Marotta, and many others. Yeh also runs the record label Drone Disco. Yeh's contribution to noise world thus far is undeniable.
After the show, I chatted with Spencer a bit about noise, improv, experimental music, and my project. Graciously he offered me a number points of contact. He regretfully indicated that others, in press and in person, have identified him by his race in both fetishistic and demeaning ways. We agreed on our sentiments of discomfort and disempowerment with regards to situations of race-oriented objectification. This conversation made me think about what then is race. Is it merely an others-imposed label? Could it be a product or process of self-identification? How is race different from racism? We've learned in school that race is a cultural construction. But what kind of construct is it? An ideology? A discursive product and trope? An instrumental category?
While these are the questions that guide my intellectual work, I have yet to figure out anything concrete and applicable in real life situations. I don't know. Sometimes I wish I could offer some solutions rather than raising more questions based on questions. My hope for an eventual applicable knowledge quietly drives forward my project.