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Shueh-li Ong: Music From Another Land

John Anthony Martinez
John Anthony Martinez.

Tell me about your collaboration with John Anthony Martinez.

This is an interesting question. I am used to working on the percussion material as a composer/producer. Percussion is any “sound” that can be considered a rhythmic element including your standard kit.

John has made his bread and butter out of playing “popular” music. He is a sought after studio drummer and is in the habit of asking what the client requests before suggesting a style which he colours with his own approach. He is able perform a top quality rendition of the expected turns and phrases and more than satisfies the client.

In “Music From Another Land” each piece of music had a percussion track to suggest my intentions; some specific in terms of sounds and kits, along with percussion details that I specifically crafted to evoke the Shueh-li signature feel. I consider my percussion work a separate style from a drummer on the job if you know what I mean.

Utilising the “Xenovibes the Show” approach (*see footnote), I suggested to John the affect I wanted with encouragement to just “play”. In “Robolution” I took inspiration from his drumming in the second half of the piece and the track on the CD took a new turn from the way it has been performed in concert.

John’s rich latin music background makes an appearance in the rendition of the Plena in the title track of “Music From Another Land”. Once it is all recorded and I take it to the production level, I simply followed my ears.

How you discovered the theremin and why you decided to play it? Also, did you got lessons or have you learned it yourself? And do you follow a specific playing technique?

I discovered the theremin during my electronic music studies. My curiosity for my education made me look for the tools that would “complete” me musically. I came to “know” the theremin; I had a PAIA kit, before I chose to play it “properly” and eventually adopted it into my family of instruments which i study seriously. I created my own method to fit my compositional and performance needs after considering the styles of such influential thereminists as Rockmore. I approach the performance nuances as a synthesizer player & vocalist; where the life of the sound is not only in its phrasing. Putting the theremin through effects squashes the dynamic range of the instrument and changes the response depending on the chosen effect, so one needs to create a performance response vocabulary outside the un-effected sound. I also perform with general monitoring rather than with a theremin dedicated speaker behind my head, and in a pop concert scenario the guitarist’s amp usually drowns me out to a point where I can’t hear myself : – ) In these concerts I play the theremin with effects and as is. I also chose to play it un midi-ed. As part of my show design I already utilize extended synthesizer techniques which are midi functions.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to find opportunities to perform around the world and share “Xenovibes the show where ancient art meets new world technology”, and to meet fellow thereminist so that I may learn from them. I welcome enquiries from concert programmers and anyone needing original music for film/TV/theatre.

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