Rainy Night Flowers and the Evolution of the Sound Apparatus in Taiwan (Jeph Lo )

2020.10.29

Rainy Night Flowers is not only one of the earliest modern folk song in Taiwan, but also a profound, complex Taiwanese song that has stayed highly popular. The release of this song in 1934 coincided with the invention and popularization of various sorts of sound apparatus. Sound technological devices such as microphones, radios, recorders, gramophone records, record players and electronic instruments gradually substituted for acoustic, unplugged sound waves, and became the primary means to disseminate music, sound and information. That is to say, the reason Rainy Night Flowers achieved such popularity was exactly because of the unprecedented scale of the space, audience, and emotion it penetrated, reached, and evoked via the sound apparatus that existed at the time.

In a broader sense, the “sound apparatus” in this project refers not simply to mechanical or electronic sounding bodies, but also to the technological devices that record, store, reproduce and disseminate sound as well as the derivative technologies, systems, institutions, regulations, and the “sound-making field” comprised of all the aforementioned aspects. As the quantities of information and audience that the sound apparatus reaches increases every day, it has automatically become a piece of “technological equipment for the transmission of messages and the distribution of the sensible” that assumes strategic significance to political powers of all stripes. Given this context, by centering on the “sound apparatus,” this exhibition area seeks to weave a historical narrative of modern sound interlaced by the evolution of visible technological objects and the map of invisible perception and mind.

This exhibition area outlines the development of the “sound apparatus” in Taiwan by reference to the chronicle of the “Taipei Radio Station” beginning from 1928, and meanwhile juxtaposes it with artist Chao-Ming Teng’s work After All These Years, by comparison—the latter anthropomorphized the song Rainy Night Flowers, recounting its history and way of survival over the past eight decades. This area also includes the Talking Drums Radio, which began broadcasting in 2019, an experimental project of online broadcasting that connects radio with the Internet—two information/sound dissemination technologies that have been widely influential, though invented in different times.

Jeph Lo (Taiwan)

As a researcher in the field of sound culture and the co-founder of TheCube Project Space (Taipei-based, non-profit), Jeph Lo has devoted long-term attention to the development of indie music, experimental music, as well as sound art and culture in Taiwan. He used to write special reports on the thriving indie music in Taipei for weekly and periodicals in the 1990s. He edited Walk the Music: Taipei Music Map since ‘90 (2000) and translated Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House (2002). Besides, he co-curated the exhibition Altering Nativism: Sound Cultures in Post-war Taiwan (2014) and worked as the chief editor of the exhibition’s catalogue/reader. Moreover, he is the chief organizer of the website Soundtrack: The Database of Taiwan’s Sound Culture (soundtraces.tw) and the Talking Drums Radio streamed online.