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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Tham

the body electric 3

Updated: Mar 21

We are the Sum of all our Song.

We burned like the sun and let our Song run through and rearrange us, we became afoot with a vision of how we could be—living music as a theatre of voices, a contemporary choral body, the composer's choir!—we became the SYC Ensemble Singers.

In making the memory-legacy project of the body electric*, we asked the SYCers—keepers of embodied knowledge and felt wisdoms—to name the things that made them curious / cry / count / curse. Together.

They liked it when things were simple. Yet not simple.

Read as : the material should be easily learned / memorised / repeated, and complexity should lie in how and when the parts come together.

Simple Yet Not Simple was the common refrain

Example 1 : Hoh Chung Shih, A Frog Song

Take ONE easy children's counting song, and—count.

Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of quavers later, it sounded like Chung Shih had convened a whole bunch of frogs on stage, in rainy season.

Hoh, A Frog Song (1997) (score excerpt)


S : sing every 11th quaver 4 times (meloy or variant), then every 10th quaver 4 times, ...

A : sing every 7th quaver 8 times, then every 6th quaver 8 times, …

T : sing every 5th quaver 10 times, then every 4th quaver …

B : sing every 9th quaver 6 times, then …

(Read: Chung Shih and his music for us)

Not simple.

Examples ++

Meditate on ONE note for a very long time, and—change (vowel, pitch) (very very slowly / imperceptibly / suddenly).

These meditations have brought us great happiness (Goh Toh Chai's Happiness of Fish) and joy (Joyce Koh's Le). Happiness and joy. We hear ourselves hearing, changing, becoming, something other.

Not simple to be still, listening.

They also like Those Harmonies in (name of song) ! We are a choir at heart, after all.

Shimmering Chords was another refrain.

Examples ++

Kelly Tang's angsty Synchrony of Psalms

Eric Banks' Artifacts, setting the words of Samuel Lee, SYC alum

John Pamintuan's Nativitas (that Alto melody!)

Saunder Choi's Brothers of the Sea

++ so many more

As it turns out, we love the things that make us cry (and curse)—"eye sweat" in the words of a choir elder—knowing that we can hold both beauty and pain in a single breath.

You will shelter souls in your sound and hold them motionless as the notes themselves,

in that safe spot up next to grace and the divine.

Why do we sing?

There must be as many reasons as there are singers, but for SYC we hope to build enough of another world on stage—a world of the body electric, full of Simple Things and Shimmering Chords—to again experience for the first time, the choral world of SYC, living music.

Gaston Bachelard, set by Mark Z. Danielewski

You will do nothing but listen.

You will not trouble your spirit to vindicate itself or be understood;

the elementary laws never apologise.

You will know you are august.


You will weave between histories and references to find confidence in your perspectives.

Temitayo Ogunbiyi, 2021


*the body electric is co-written by Jennifer Tham, Diana Soh and Americ Goh—SYC alumni singer-composers—together with the SYCESingers, using their responses to (i) Whitman, (ii) SYC commissioned works, and (iii) Di's exhortations to Lift–Place–Pull–Push–Drag–Throw–Tear our selves into being.

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