STORIES - CULTURE - TECHNOLOGY - MUSIC
WHAT IS IT?
Built upon STEM concepts and driven by audience participation, this immersive show incorporates elements from history, science, technology and music. Using an ancient Chinese stringed-instrument, the ‘ruan’, together with some fascinating, cutting-edge technology, Benji weaves together a narrative on the role of music in Chinese culture, both ancient and modern.
Benji also explores traditional Chinese flutes dating back to 8000 years ago. In 1986, 30 musical flutes were unearthed in Jia Hu, China. Made from bone, they are the oldest wind instruments ever discovered. Using it’s recorded sounds and sampling technology, Benji has created a virtual instrument that that can be played live, instantly transporting us to an age lost in time and memory.
By integrating instruments ranging from ancient China to the contemporary era, elements from the world over are blended into a single, unified eperience. Along the way we’ll also be integrating topics covering electrical conductivity, technology and creative-thinking techniques.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Now it's your turn! There are many similarities between Eastern and Western music. After mastering the basics, they’ll be encouraged to have a go at all the acoustic and digital instruments in groups, like in a band or troupe. The skills learnt here apply to 100% of all instruments and requires no prior musical experience!
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The secret to playing any instrument is to apply strong rhythm. To illustrate this, everyone is invited to clap a very simple, repetitive beat (Beat #1). Some will be invited on stage to clap this.
A different, Beat #2 clap is then introduced and clapped at the same time as Beat #1. Others are also invited on stage to add the Beat #2 clap.
We simply repeat the process until we have several clapping ‘band members’ on stage. Now they move onto the ruan and drum pads* with their rhythms, where these clap-rhythms take on different musical elements, and we suddenly find ourselves rocking out alongside each other in a jam!
WHAT ARE THE DRUM PADS?
These advanced, electronic drum pads are each slightly larger than a 50c piece. Played with fingers, they’re pressure-sensitive, lit by multicoloured LED lights and can be hooked up to any sound or special effects one could possibly imagine!
Played in-time like real instruments, these pads don’t make music, they make sounds which students play to make music.
With multiple band members on stage, the pads can be made to give us the sounds of an Oriental percussion ensemble, a typical rock band, ocean soundscape, orchestra...anything at all!
Later on in the show, the pads will be used to trigger sound effects during a story - an ancient tale from the 6th century about a young, gifted warrior by the name of 'Mulan'.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
By sharing music and stories from different cultures we ignite imagination, connect with each other and cultivate creativity, compassion and understanding.
Beat’s ’n Pieces also provides students with a simple formula to re-integrate co-ordination, skill, imagination and collaboration back into playing music, as opposed to 'just pushing buttons'. It asks the question, ‘what magic might we achieve if we work together to humanise and re-imagine the function of today’s and tomorrow’s tools?’
Benji's ancestral roots trace back to Shanghai and Guangdong, formerly known as Canton, located in South China. This is where the dialect, Cantonese, originates from of which Benji is a proud and fluent speaker.
Following economic and political upheaval in China in the early half of the 20th century, his family first migrated from China to Hong Kong - finally settling in Melbourne in the '60's, where Benji was born and raised.
Growing up on the Mornington Peninsula, Benji had neither an interest nor aptitude for Chinese, folk or classical music. Instead, he discovered and was compelled by blues guitar styles during high school and played contemporary rock and the classics: Clapton, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Tool, Rage, Hendrix.
Before long and in 2002, he won the Frankston International Guitar Festival's Young Guitarist of the Year Award. Within a few short years, he would become a reputable educator and session-musician, touring Australia and landing overseas contracts on the international 5-star hotel circuit. Here, he spent 3 years honing his craft, playing in Jakarta, Seoul, Oman and Vladivsotok, Russia.
One day, Benji picked up a ruan for the first time and had a lightning-bolt epiphany...that the same 5 notes -used in all blues and modern rock music that he had dedicated 20 years of his life to mastering- were the same 5 notes used in traditional Chinese music!
The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Benji practises all kinds of music from different eras and cultures. He is not, by far, a traditionalist and therefore incorporates and embraces tradition together with modernity and innovation. After all, what is now considered 'ancient' was itself once an innovation...or we would still be limited to the bone flute!
Benji was incredible! The kids loved the stories and by the show's end, couldn't wait to start making music! Thanks Benji!
Mont Albert PS, VIC
Enthralling, everybody was captivated and walked away from the show confident to play music with each other! Unbelievable how such a simple concept could bring the children together making music. INSPIRATIONAL!
LLoyd St School, VIC