It started in the fall of 2019 in the Marin Headlands, a hilly peninsula located just north of San Francisco, when the two of us were fortunate to be Artists in Residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts. For 42 days, we would wake up to the distinct rustling sound and cold scent of the eucalyptus forest gently softening the mornings of this former military base. We were ambitious, suddenly free from the distractions of wifi, cell reception and daily obligations, and setting out to create a single piece of music every day. But as with the nature of the creative journey itself, some days were less inspired than others, so we have named each composition after the day on which its idea arose.
Continuing our sound making practice in the Headlands, we recorded our daily soundwalks, encountering unexpected sounds everywhere: resonant ring handles on rusted iron gates at the abandoned military barracks, whispering water radiators in our bedrooms, choirs of insects near Rodeo Beach at nightfall, and the “musical” pipes outside the Writer’s House after a full night of rain. We combined these field recordings with our primary instruments - voice and pipa (a Chinese string instrument), and recorded our improvisations and compositions in our temporary studio, a 2000 square-foot gymnasium once the site of service members’ basketball games and bowling matches, now a hollow, dusty space with ghostly resonance. Something particular emerged in that space. Internal landscape and rugged terrains, the routes to which were normally ambiguous, suddenly opened, and slowly came unraveled into something at once intimate and expansive, under the warm embrace of the 4-second-long reverb of the gym. Sometimes, layers of imagined sonic spaces appeared through subtle digital processing juxtaposed with organic field recordings and the acoustics of the space.
Listening back, it feels as if we were transported from the mundane into an otherworldly place: a magical realist world, perhaps, where the boundary between humans, animals, nature, and mystic beings are porous, transforming freely into one another.
So here it is, our first album, 42 Days, finally coming together in the bizarre winter of 2020, with each of us now isolated in our apartments in New York and California. Creating and producing this album has sheltered us from this long, cold and chaotic pandemic winter. We hope your listening journey will be as surreal, comforting, and empowering as it was for us.
All music composed, performed, recorded, mixed, and mastered by Sophia Shen and Lemon Guo
Cover photo by Daniel Southard
Cover Chinese calligraphy by Longshi Shen
Notebook design by Mengtai Zhang
Special thanks to Headlands Center for the Arts, Emily Bell, Elyse Blennerhassett, Meili Chen, Kevin Corcoran, Ingibjörg Friðriksdóttir, Daniel Gouly, Larkin Grimm, Jian Guo, Alex Levine, Jing Li, Poppy Litchfield, Tianyi Lu, Anna Lublina, Luisa Muhr, Huang Qi, Jie Ren, Chatori Shimizu, Vlada Tomova, Gabby Wen, Huiling Xiao, Xenia Xie, Minmin Yang, Yang Yang, Marilyn Yuan
If you’re interested in learning more about the behind-the-scenes stories of 42 Days, you could read the Notebook here.
Southeast of Rain 东南有雨 is an experimental duo of two young female composers/ sound artists based in California and New York.
With the shimmering textures of Sophia Shen’s pipa, evocative cores of Lemon Guo’s vocals, and whimsically processed field recordings, their genre-bending works travel freely yet subtly between worlds, while paying homage to traditional Chinese music’s affinity with nature....more
This has become one of the most important albums of my life. It’s essence is indescribable. Every sound from the start of the record through the end is placed delicately and with care. The album cover is by Julie Mehretu. It’s absolutely an incredible release for which I shall be eternally grateful. Aniket