Silk and Dogs


Silk and Dogs is a politically motivated music project, using samples and sound sources, as well as traditional instrumentation and programming, to highlight particular political, social and cultural issues/concerns in China today. The work will always be free to download, alongside reading material related to the music. Silk and Dogs attempt to remain anonymous, solely because the issues highlighted are of more significance than the identity of a group of performers; the lack of a clear presence in production of performance removes the intensity and validity of the work.

Silk and Dogs’ performances are accompanied by visuals and occasional spoken word pieces. Silk and Dogs name comes from the epic box set created by the sadly departed Muslimgauze, whose music looked at the complex and interwoven troubles in the Middle East – “I don’t think you can visit an occupied land. It’s the principle. Not until it’s free again.”

The ‘Provinces’ project

The Provinces Project was an audio exploration of cross section of life in China’s provinces. Each month a track was released, constructed of field recordings, found sound and processed instruments, that highlighted a particular sound/image/memory of the place in question. Some weree abstract, others less so. The project ran from Oct 2009 until Oct 2010.

The Provinces project zip file, with track information and artwork (Click to Download)

September 2010
Tibet (Right Click and Save As to Download)

Much has been said of Tibet, and its relationship with China. I am not sure that I am in any way qualified to add my own voice to that maelstrom, to tread on the toes of others whose work is much more visionary, and exciting and powerful:

Free Tibet Campaign Archives
Dalai Lama’s Official Web Presence
Rangzen Alliance
Tibet Online
Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy

A few years ago I wrote a piece of fiction, which may or may not find its way in to a larger piece of fiction I am currently constructing, about Tibet. It was composed of reflections and descriptions from an old book on pre-invasion Tibetan customs. The piece can be found here.

Tibet marks the end of the year long Provinces project, which sought to highlight specific news or historical issues in a variety of Chinese provinces. A complete archive package of the 12 tracks, along with associated material and links will be available to download as a zip folder from this very page in Winter 2010

August 2010
Yunnan (Right Click and Save As to Download)

Yesterday, part of the same system that brought extensive and continued flooding to Pakistan. Not really anything I want to add, as it is a constantly changing situation, but please visit here to donate what you can to the Pakistan Flood Appeal

July 2010
Gansu (right click and Save As to download)

This piece, the 10th in the Provinces Project (which will conclude in September on track 12 – all will be available to download as a zip file from mid-October), is an attempt to develop a generative work based on one five-note arpeggio and its gradual collapse/build in to granular disorder. The fuzz that seemingly attached itself to the track reminded me of being on the beach at Camber Sands many years ago, and watching as the wind pulled in the dry sand from dunes in to the sea.

China, and particularly Gansu province, has a problem with both desertification, and subsequent sandstorms. A comprehensive, and expensive, programme to combat the problem through international collaboration with the Japanese, South Korea and others, has started to make a dent in the frequency of such events. Gansu province is the area where most sandstorms in the country occur, and so the PRC centred their research and anti-desertification measures there, setting up the Gansu Desert Control Research Institute (GDCRI). The institute has now started rolling out training programmes to other countries suffering from desertification, inviting panels from numerous African nations ( Egypt, DRC, Angola, Tanzania) affected by similar problems. Last year’s course was held in Minqin County in Gansu, one of the four major areas in the PRC from which sand storms originate. The county saw 14 sand storms in 2006, down almost 50% on 2005, after it brought 2,000 hectares of desert under control by encircling the sand with nets made of wheat straw and planting drought-resistant plants. Fujitsu, the Japanese electronics company, has invested over 10 million Japanese yen in various desert greening projects in China, under an agreement signed by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) and the workers union of Fujitsu in 2006. This sort of cross governmental programme, along with the continuing training the GDCRI is providing to developing nations in Africa, is the only real way progress can be made, and deserts can be reclaimed.

For more information on the vibrant and eternally exciting history of anti-desertification measures in Gansu, here are some links:

Initial 2001 findings
2007 article/source material

June 2010
Heilongjiang (Right Click and Save As to Download)

Back in 2002, Channel 4 screened a series of programmes about China, including the infamous ‘baby cannibal’ modern art programme ‘Beijing Swings’ (the artist in question was Zhu Yu). They also screened a selection of Chinese films, including one that has stuck with me – and indeed formed part of Sunshine and Power Lines – in the intervening years. Sadly, I am unable to find the name of it, but it dealt with a Chinese artist escaping from Xi’an (I think…it was a long time ago and my memory changes things for fun) after being accused of murdering his girlfriend. He decides to travel by train to the northern town of Mohe in Heilongjiang province, which is far enough north that it is essentially polar. He saw it as the remotest place in the PRC. The track I made to accompany this province uses a field recording from an American tourist of a folk song from Heilongjiang which I have cut up and rearranged. In much the same way, the following section has been cut up and rearranged.

Neighbours in arms, characters, a secret body in the mountain near Mohe’s northern candles. They stand in the many Waters. Here, in northern skies, kilometres of old strange frequented towns. To eat the opposite, tooth, earth. Their part. Along it, animals of blue, ancient feet, red high latitude rings in northern skies. In their heads, resources from “ Big Walk Lights”, possibly back in the four Chinese, advertisement skeletons. Rising colours likely. Big stares in this remoteness, is too much of a remoteness, there in the belt of stars. The North is tender, the years are rouge from clay. The cockerel’s river, ice. A river may like the cold, perhaps the road will come in to the high Mohe winds. There the fights, at the Russian border, in the dam of ribbon-fish that move like a map.

The passengers are an appropriate childhood surplus. In the autumn the river appears and very few of the passengers understood the water mother this spring. Dreaming stares stretches colour to camp. Her brown plants and the Wu nickname. Visits the lights in the magic cube band. Scattered material in polar Mohe. The arms are a boundary of degrees, a boundary for possible river lights. The ink black surpasses it and bacterium likes a ring fungus, like most of nature, a wish on the ocean. Cold gardens of scattered snow. Red now, the cockerel’s river, the home, the brew bent wonders of virgin geography. When will we use the dissonant house mouth. Then eat then vanishes Mohe, who stretches heads in the long wind.

May 2010
(Right Click Here, and ‘Save As’ to Download)
Ma Yaohai, a professor at Nanjing University, was jailed for three and a half years by a Nanjing court earlier this week, guilty of the charge of “group licentiousness”. Between 2007-2009, he was engaged in numerous group sex acts with nineteen or twenty one others (who also received jail terms…the exact number seems to vary across news coverage) at his home, where Chinese authorities believe he lived with his elderly mother. This case raises a number of questions about the sexual civil liberties in the PRC. There is growing pressure for such laws to be reviewed, and China sits on an awkward bridge between increased sexual experimentation, and legal prevention. Pornography is banned, except if you can get hold of the software to circumvent the government website blocks, and many do. A sizeable number of Chinese cities operate ‘adult health shops’ selling a variety of sex toys and related materials. How the authorities proceed after this case is uncertain, with public opinion also veering wildly from utter disgust to feelings of anger at continued government interference in the populations private lives. In her blog earlier this year, Beijing sexologist (yes…this is the actual term) Li Yinhe suggested the 1997 law banning “group licentiousness” should be abandoned. “If the nation’s laws interfere with this sort of activity of people in private, then it seems like the participants’ bodies aren’t their own, they’re the government’s”. This case highlights that the government, as yet, are unwilling to change their minds or their legislation when it comes to sexual liberties.

This composition, in fairly simplistic terms, represents a slightly drugged up orgy.

Li Yinhe’s blog (in Mandarin)

April 2010
(Click to Download)
Today it was announced that 100 of the 153 miners trapped in the Wangjialing coal mine flood had been rescued, with a provincial party chief confident that more survivors would emerge over the day. China has one of the worst safety records for mining fatalities in the world, due to a combination of a lack of formalised safety checks, poor state and provincial regulation and the large number of illegal mining operations across the country. Shanxi province, one of the major mining centres in the People’s Republic, has seen three especially bad mining accidents in the last five years. In 2009, a mine blast before dawn at Gujiao, left 74 dead and well over one hundred in hospital with serious injuries. This event saw the highest number of casualties since a gas blast outside Taiyuan killed a similar number in 2007 (exact figures for the number of dead and injured are often difficult to come by and, more often than not, woefully inaccurate). Wangjialing, with its seemingly successful rescue mission appears, thankfully, a comparatively safe operation. Xinhua news agency reports that figures for the number of mining related accidents in China for the year ending 2008 had dropped 19%, but still stood at a frightening 413,700. These are the official numbers; the actual number of Chinese injured or killed each year, which go unreported, is much higher.

This track, the seventh part of the Provinces project, represents an audio interpretation of these three mining disasters.

March 2010
Liaoning (Click to Download)
’40 years in a building in the northern suburbs of this little version, but never naked and cowering behind a rock from the red threat. I was seen as if I had become the red threat, retreating from the old ways, of factionalism, fighting the fractional destruction of the mighty north east when the overseas came inland. I did as told but only when I thought it wise, and moved away when I thought it not. We held him, shivering on the hillside, and made the pact to battle with all, united across the vastness of peoples…when light was split between what is today (well a loose version of it) and what could have become – an unending war. Betrayed as straying from my own gun shaking khaki capped allies, and moved/removed to the east four years on from the war to end all wars. There was always conflict though, even after ninety three, when the other two were gone and I could sail further east, to volcanic land and distant recollections. They called me. Ignoring pleas to return, to bestow, to grant credibility to faltering ideology. Neither/nor. Asleep one year after the turn, and enshrined as addict, abuser, failed peacemaker; not simply following my old Generalissimo to the summit, but making him see, if only for a moment, a differing path.’

____ _____ was born in Liaoning province on or around 1898. Liaoning was made using piano fragments from a recording by a well known resident who grew up in the second city of the province.

February 2010
Anhui (Click to Download)
See here for more information on this track

January 2010
Qinghai (Click to Download)
Please click the following link for a detail description of January’s track and the motivation behind it as well as information to sign the petition for the release of Dhondup Wangchen.
Click for Details

December 2009
Beijing (Click to Download)
Beijing was created using no Chinese instrumentation or samples. An explanation of the nature of the piece can be read at the official Silk and Dogs website.

November 2009
Guangdong (Click to Download)
Guangdong was made using distorted and rearranged samples of Tiqin (an instrument similar to the Banhu), three-string, Yueqin and the horizontal flute. More importantly, samples of erhu and gaohu were used. The overall effect attempted was the recreation of a sound similar to the Vangelis soundtrack to Blade Runner. This intention was aimed at distilling a particular Westernised image of Guangdong, or more notable Guangzhou and also Hong Kong, as a future nightmare style environment, though the Pearl River Delta area of Southern China is still far from an overdeveloped Orwellian megacity. The gaohu was an instrument supposedly developed by renowned Guangdong folk artist Lu Wencheng. Lu Wencheng changed the erhu’s silk strings to steel and altered the erhu’s resonance chamber box in to a smaller sounding one, meaning higher octaves could be reached using the combination of these two changes. Lu Wencheng’s music, composed in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, was concerned with representing the beauty of the natural world in musical form; his particularly well remembered pieces, now considered classics of the Guangdong genre, were meditations on Haungzhou’s West Lake in autumn and rain drops falling on plantain leaves symbolising the end of the drought in the delta region.

October 2009
Xinjiang (Click to Download)
Xianjiang was made by adapting two-string dombra lute, Kazak vocals (along with East Turkestan samples), field recordings taken at Tarim River and in Karamay, a Xun ocarina and Koudi flute.On the 8th of December 1994, 325 people (of whom 288 were children) died in a fire whilst on a school trip to the Friendship Theatre in Karamay. Eye witnesses at the time recalled the heat of the stage lights setting fire to nearby curtains and the theatre being engulfed within minutes. The children and teachers were told to remain in their seats to allow Communist Party officials to leave the building first. The phrase 同學们坐下,不要動, 讓領導先走, roughly translated as ‘All of you sit and don’t move. Let the leaders out first’ was immortalised in Zhou Yunpeng’s song ‘Don’t Want To Be The Children of The Chinese’.

For further information, please visit.

New York Times Article – Dec 10th 1994
Epoch Times Article – In Chinese
DWNews Article – In Chinese

Lao Gai

Silk and Dogs will release ‘Laogai’  following the completion of the ‘Provinces’ project.

The Death of China
(Click to Download )

‘The Death of China’ attempts to explore the way in which China is adapting to its status as the 21st century’s superpower. China is a nation experiencing rapid, and largely unchecked and unregulated, economic expansion. This ‘progress’ has been marred by human rights abuse, increasing environmental problems (it is now a greater polluter than the US),and the destruction of traditional ways of life, both in the city and in rural communities. The songs use a variety of samples from musical traditions across China, taking in the Tibetan plateau, the snow of the Northern province towns of Mohe, and the tropical heat of the Guangdong Province to construct an image of a country beginning to understand its own might.’

Track names:
1. Shanghai
2. Hill Town
3. Hong Kong
4. Nam Co
5. The Lake and The River
6. The Street Music of Chongching
7. Manchuria Parts I, II, III

The download is in. rar format, to make it slightly more compact. Please unpack to listen.


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