Huang Ruo’s Resonant Theatre: The Sonic Great Wall


What does a “wall” mean to you, and how can we break down barriers?

The Sonic Great Wall is a sonic, spatial, visual, and participatory project by composer Huang Ruo that explores new music for new audiences. The ancient Great Wall of China is one of the world’s earliest and largest communication projects. Inspired by that Great Wall, The Sonic Great Wall uses new music to reach, connect, and engage audiences with performers. The performance-installation piece is redesigned for each site at which it is performed. Inspired by the Great Wall’s structure, “watchtowers” are created as mini-stages for the performers, with connecting “walls” made of audience members seated on benches or rows of chairs facing one another. Performers move between the watchtowers throughout the piece, while audiences are invited to participate in sound-making through humming, breathing, whispering, and other simple effects, representing the spirits guarding the Great Wall. Audiences are also invited to whisper poems themed around ideas of death, life, love, earth, fire, water, light, connection, and silence, which are crowd-sourced in advance of the performance.

Composer and Director: Huang Ruo

Past performances have featured:
London Sinfonietta
Ensemble Modern
Asko|Schönberg Ensemble
Dream Unfinished Ensemble

The piece can be performed by an ensemble local to the presenting organization.
Instrumentation: flute (doubling alto flute), oboe, clarinet in Bb, bassoon, horn in F, trumpet, trombone, percussion, violin I, violin II, viola, cello, contrabass
Duration: 60 minutes

Read the review in the New York Times: “A ‘Sonic Great Wall’ Breaks Down Musical Barriers” by Anthony Tomassini, covering a performance at National Sawdust’s FERUS Festival in January, 2019.