Earthquake Soundscapes

Afterquake team.

Artists Abigail Washburn and Dave Liang with relocated Wenchuan Shuimo Middle School students Photo by Amanda Kowalski hide caption

itoggle caption Photo by Amanda Kowalski

I've been hearing about a lot of post-earthquake projects going on in Sichuan. Yesterday I got an email about something called Afterquake — a CD that's just been produced in Sichuan and will be released on the anniversary of the quake, May 12, as a fundraiser.

The music is a collaboration between two people who sound like they'd either be kindred souls or drive each other nuts: Abigail Washburn, who's been singing old-time Appalachian mountain music in Chinese, and Dave Liang of Shanghai Restoration Project, who's been mixing traditional Chinese instruments with hip-hop and electronica.

The two have just spent a couple weeks in rural Sichuan collecting recordings of what they call "earthquake soundscapes" — construction sounds, playground noise, performances by children from the quake zone, and the voices of their parents. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I clicked on one of the sample tracks they'd sent. At first it was a bit jarring to hear the voice of a mother telling her son to study hard, set to the beat of gravel being shoveled. But I listened on and there's something kind of magical and haunting about the music they've created.

Listen

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Here's another track, this one called Sala.

Here's what Abigail Washburn says about the song:

This is a dance song from the Qiang minority (the minority most impacted by the earthquakes); this song is traditionally sung while dancing around a fire; the words are meaningless and simply meant to be happy. Performed by 8th grader Luo Shuang.

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