Hypochondriasis is for chin (guqin) and live electronics. Chin is an ancient Chinese 7-string zither normally played by plucking with fingers. This piece is my first work to use electronics. For the first experiment on electronics, I choose the chin as the instrument since it’s one of the instruments I’m familiar with. However, the chin is a very personal instrument due to its soft volume and subtle timbral changes, so amplification becomes an important element and thus creates a new kind of environment, an augmented chin.
Such an augmented environment gives me inspiration for the piece. The necessary amplification and the electronic sounds both expand and even exaggerate the original instrumental sounds, which reminds me of the syndrome of the hypochondriasis, a tendency to fear or imagine that one has the illnesses that one does not actually have. The sufferers of this psychological illness normally augment their pain and exaggerate their physical conditions.
In the piece, I pretend to be a hypochondriasis sufferer who exaggerates and distorts the sense as if viewing things under the microscope. By associating this emotional activity with music, I intend to find appropriate and justified roles for the electronics and the augmentation, not only to build an intimate relationship between acoustics, amplification, and electronics, but to create different scenarios and multiple layers of musical environments.
To convey the idea of hypochondriasis more clearly, besides augmenting the sound by using amplification and electronics, I also make direct acoustic distortion through playing the instrument in several unconventional ways. In this piece, in addition to plucking the strings as the players traditionally do, I play with different tools and techniques to produce various timbral changes, such as bowing the strings with different levels of pressure, rubbing along the strings or on the wooden part with the rubber superball stick, or knocking on the strings or the wooden part with the binder clip. Through these devices, I hope to create theatrical tension and twisted emotion as well as to bring fresh elements to this traditional instrument.
Also, since I am the performer, how to trigger and control the sounds by myself during the performance is a practical issue. To solve this problem, I connect a softstep pad and a foot pedal with the computer so that I am able to control the level of the reverberation and trigger the electronic events with my feet silently while playing the instrument.