The Performance of Identity​/​One Man's Orchestra

by Xiao He

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about

He Guoheng, known in the world of music as Xiao He, is one of the most creative and influential artists in the Beijing music scene. Besides his recordings and his solo and ensemble music performances, he is active in drama, writes incidental music, and is a creative force in the underground movie industry. He is also the head of Maybe Horse, a Maybe Mars sub- label dedicated to supporting and developing Beijing’s and China’s most innovative folk and ethnic musicians.

At the same time Xiao He, which is the alias he settled on for his folk and improvised music performances, played guitar, drum and accordion at River, a legendary old Beijing folk bar. Between these two projects Xiao He quickly developed a serious following among artists and music fans in the China music scene. In 2003, Modern Sky, China’s largest independ- ent label, released his first CD, a live recording called “The Bird that Can Fly High Landed on the Cow that Can Run Fast”. Almost immediately this was received as one of the most important recordings in contemporary Chinese music.

Except for a very few special performances with Glorious Pharmacy, today Xiao He only plays solo performances. Calling these multi-faceted improvised performances “Free Folk”, as much to express his anarchic playfulness as to suggest the total freedom which he approaches musical instrumentation, vocal performances and stylistic experimentation, he has become the inventor of a deeply weird and immensely moving style of music, mystical and surreal, which abruptly veers from the plaintive cries of Mongolian or Western Chinese music to the barbed and sometimes childlike humour of the avant garde. Complementing his stylistic creativity is a wholly unique way of playing acoustic guitar, loops, synthesizers and any other instrument that catches his fancy.

After his 2009 European tour, Xiao He released his second album in China with Maybe Mars. Consisting of improvised live and studio performances and two separate CDs the new album is a milestone for Xiao He. The live CD is based on 30 hours of recordings going back three years, which he has assembled as his “Personal Symphony” and, selected from six different shows, focuses on the irreversible and unrepeatable character of live performance. The other CD was recorded in his studio and focuses on the quality of the sounds and experimentation with the recording process and juxtaposes thousands of ways of combining vocal sounds with the sound of his guitar as he wrestles with and reinterprets his understanding of Minimalism.

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released March 1, 2011

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