Shuo Hsiao Connects Music Closer to Life


Music production is not only a conversation between creators and themselves, but also one with listeners. Why is conversation so important?

Shuo: Music should be closer to life.

Since 2000, Shuo Hsiao (蕭賀碩) moves from production assistant, producer to singer. She receives Best New Artist in Golden Melody Awards in 2008 and Best Composer this year with the song "Musicians". With a sunflower drawn on her face, she says in her interview, "it's not done yet. It's reminder that the value of songwriter lies in the flower." This says all about her social stance. (Editor's note: She refers to the Sunflower Movement happened in Taiwan in March 2014)

▲Shuo Hsiao - Musicians

"Money should not be the lifelong mission for creators," as she always believes so. It takes passion and expertise, as well as sharp observations to the society and the world. It should not be done for manipulation or profit. "It's already difficult to make it living by creating music. If it's still hard for us after more than a decade, it would be more so to newcomers." Every generation has its set of issues, so we need to find our own way and persist.

"It's important to persist," she says seriously. There's always something we can choose to do. "People would describe music as jazz, Latin or other genres, for example, but there are essential items and characters underneath. If you want to cook udon noodles with curry flavor, you have to really put curry into it, otherwise it's only a marketing tactic."

In the past few years, she has travelled extensively in Taiwan. The journey and observations to life are visible and scattered in the latest album Musicians. The track "Going Home on Subway" records familiar broadcasts, "Beef Sirloin" reflects on daily diets, and "Orchid Island Blue" points to nuclear waste issue. She hopes to walk on this island and contemplate in every location. "When I embrace them in my life, they will be available around me as important nutrition source in my creative practices." As a jazz lover, she has visited New Orleans for the essential jazz. As soon as melodies splash, she understand "this music doesn't come from scores, but life."

▲Shuo Hsiao - Lanyü Blues (蘭嶼的藍)

But how can music be closer to life?

"In Taiwan, music and life seem to be separated." Many people "intentionally" go to performances, instead of visit in a spontaneous way, "but it should really be a normal passage in life." She prefers small and relaxing venues to interact with listeners and see their eyes. "Music is a two-way dynamics. Musicians perform and audiences respond to make a full cycle. It’s a major feedback."

It's her priority to connect music closer to life and converse in music. In the near future, she would like to coordinate a concert series by invite different musicians to perform, converse, create and exchange together on stage. "It would be fun to write a song together for the performance, without any commercial concerns. When we come back to the essence of creation, it's unlimited."

To Shuo, conversation is a small field study with company. In singing and conversation, the audience can reflect on the topic and mutual connections. "People are often too lazy to think," so we put many slogans into our minds without a second thought. Many readers are used to reading digests, without any extra efforts to understand contexts. Many listeners only follow what's popular, instead of choosing what they really prefer. "It's how we are educated. The system doesn't teach us now to think, but how to answer test questions. This can be dangerous."

She is aware that changes do not happen overnight, but it's crucial to communicate on the stance. "When the society only indicates one path to the objective, let's build a network of alternatives."