Dissonant echoes of a former music student

One of our staff members, Markku, has spent the autumn in Taiwan, getting familiar with Taiwanese universities. A while ago he visited a local arts festival and got the chance to interview a Finnish music artist and former music student, Antti Myllyoja, about his experiences as an exchange student, and where his exchange has brought him eventually.

No words are spoken as a pale figure with a grotesque aura, that could well predate literature, stumbles forwards its linear path, in a zombie-like state, toward a disruptive symbolic structure, a chaotically vandalized black and white piano in this case, which it then studies, expressing nearly an animal like behavior all the way to the highest of excitements, only to plummet back in to the depths of despair again. Then, gradually, it starts to make its way towards its complete opposite, a well composed and lively pianist who excels in an aesthetically pleasing state of signified existence. Two of them become one as the climactic dissonant chords are played like vulgar echoes from the left-behind chaos and disruption. 

dissonant echoes of a former music student
Photographer: Te-Fan Wang (汪德範)

Although the main interest of the third Love for Freedom Calligraphy Art festival (愛自由當代書藝) is a Taiwanese dancer, and somewhat a local celebrity in the contemporary art scene, Hu Chia (胡嘉), the object of his performance, Black Meal (黑食), however, is a Finnish composer Antti Myllyoja in piano. Performance that ends in a synthesis of these two artists for the first time now – though who have been friends for a good couple of years – makes intriguing sense in the audience´s perspective since Antti is the only foreign artist who performs in the festival and, as such, is bound to catch the eyes of those who have wondered into an old warehouse building turned gallery within the city of Hsinchu´s railway station complex. But how has Antti himself found his way to Hsinchu and become part of the Taiwanese contemporary art scene?

dissonant echoes of a former music student
Photographer: Te-Fan Wang (汪德範)

It was back in 2010, the exchange, Antti starts his story. That was also the year he graduated from Sibelius Academy (nowadays part of the University of the Arts Helsinki) in Finland. At that time, the soon-to-become master of music had a touch of previous experience in Asia, having spent an exceptional summer in China couple of years earlier, and who thus was keen to browse through the available exchange options with the recently seen movies from an award winning Malaysian-born director – though who has made his career in Taiwan – Tsai Ming-liang in mind. Was it Tsai´s Taiwan inspired movies that had influenced Antti to choose Taiwan over the many other locations which offer interesting scenes for an artist and exchange student? “Tsai´s movies gave me a very creative and experimental picture of Taiwan which was later proven to be correct”, Antti explains. There is no heavy burden of tradition, he then adds. “Tradition can be good, but not the burden”. What kind of burden does he mean?

“It rained heavily that day, and I went to a hostel for the night”, Antti reminiscences his first day in Taipei. And within a week he was already in the studio of Golden Bough Theatre, a peculiar fusion of western theater and Taiwanese folk tradition, or post-modern, as it would be called in the world of arts, through which he became accustomed to the world of Taiwanese theater – “it is in the core of the story”, he reminds. Internship in Golden Bough lasted for three months, after which he started another three-month internship with the contemporary percussionists of Ju Percussion Group. Then it was time for the master´s thesis. “It was a free field of arts, without puritanism”, he sums up the exchange period; “even the studies were free of structure”. Then he starts to talk about a course that consisted of visits to culturally significant buildings. Nonchalance is easily mistaken as discontinuance in Antti´s story.

dissonant echoes of a former music student

“One reason, of course, was a Taiwanese actress Liu Yutsen, and another was a place in the Taiwanese art scene”, why Antti returned to Taiwan after his studies were completed. At the time, in 2012, the two of them established a theater together and Radical Snail Office was born. “The idea was to combine contemporary music with experimental theater”. “Surely, it has worked out well”. When asked about Antti´s future plans, the man replies: “as if I have any – we live in a space between…”. Silence ensues after which a burst of sarcastic laughter soon follows. It was the same laughter that spiced up the story of him seeing the distorted and diabolical face, probably from the performance the night before, in the heat and humidity of Taipei, in which the lizards are free to roam about.

Did you understand what was it about, asked a fair Taipei lady of a high academic standing, referring to the Black Meal performance, not being used to the contemporary arts. Perhaps it was about the thorough disruption in an otherwise so linear evolutionary path that needed to take place in order for the new literate culture to be born. Be as it may, in any case, Antti Myllyoja would not change a thing about his experience in Taiwan.

Disruption echoes in the dissonance, as Antti, Hu Chia and many others continue catering the contemporary art addicts those ink-black meals of enlightened culture near the rigid shores of the Pacific Ocean that make up the island of Taiwan.

dissonant echoes of a former music student
Photographer: Te-Fan Wang (汪德範)

Find more information about Taiwanese universities!

Soochow University and Taipei University of the Arts have received very favourable reviews on Study Advisory, where they were rated both by Taiwanese and international students. The security level and student services are particularly appreciated at Soochow while good value for money stands out from reviews of Taipei University of the Arts.

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