Remy Siu has come down from the mountain, which is good news for Vancouver—and New Westminster, too.
We’re talking Burnaby Mountain, where Siu began his postsecondary studies in music composition and film. It wasn’t long, though, before Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts moved downtown, and you could say that’s where his education really began.
“A lot of people at SFU Woodward’s right now really, really know how important it is for us to be downtown, and for us to have this new space,” Siu says, reached on his cellphone as he’s sitting in the sun outside the former department store. Already, he notes, the school is seething with cross-genre collaborations.
“We talk about art all the time, so that kind of leads us towards interdisciplinary work,” the 22-year-old says of his fellow students. “It’s about being able to think from so many angles and having the trust to say, you know, ‘This person knows more about theatre than I do. So if I’m doing a theatrical chamber piece, I should consult him.’ ”
That’s the concept behind Siu’s multimedia ensemble Hong Kong Exile, which also includes choreographer Natalie Gan and theatre artist Milton Lim. The three are prepping an interdisciplinary string quintet—called Hong Kong Exile—for performances at SFU Woodward’s Studio D at the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts on October 12, 13, and 14.
Although it’s possible to find trace elements of Chinese music in Siu’s score, the composer says that Hong Kong Exile is more about Vancouver today than about his parents’ former home.
“I don’t think it was about taking on any formal materials from Chinese music as much as it was about disorientation,” he explains. “We’re exploring, sometimes in a comic way, the sense of not exactly being lost, but floating. And, eventually, there’s a kind of arrival.”
Siu’s own arrival extends beyond the confines of the School for the Contemporary Arts. He, Gan, and Lim are artists in residence at New Westminster’s River Market, where as Hong Kong Exile they’re presenting mixed programs of music, film, poetry, and performance art. And he’s also making inroads into local club culture with Dissonant Disco, an electroacoustic avant-rock band in which the former piano student plays up to three iPads simultaneously.
It’s all about blurring boundaries, Siu contends. “We’re not looking to write pop-inspired music, or Bang on a Can–style minimalism, or anything like that,” he says. “But we are trying to see where these things connect, how we can engage with different audiences in different ways, and how we can build a community around music in Vancouver.”