2012 - 2021
Trouble with harmony (2021)
Two participants from the original programme are back for the 3rd Edition, to collaborate on a project they’re calling, “Trouble with Harmony”. It’s not an attempt to articulate the trouble with harmony. Neither to analyse, for instance, the predominant but problematic discourses about political, cultural or racial harmony in a multifarious society like Singapore. Rather, an invitation to play—to play with. Donna Haraway reminds us that the etymology of “trouble” is the French verb “to stir up”, “to make cloudy” or “to disturb”. Perhaps our role here is to “sit in” and find how these instances of harmonies demand us to think deeply about our present—where we are. Trouble with harmony is a proposition to think about trouble alongside thinking about harmony. Shifting the shapes of our thinking, and our listening. Exploring a polyphony of themes, topics and tropes. But perhaps this is saying both too much and not enough.
Trouble with harmony will premiere under NTU Centre for Contemporary Art's series Free Jazz, in conjunction with Liquid Architecture's series on Machine Listening.
For more information: http://ntu.ccasingapore.org/events/bani-haykal-in-collaboration-with-lee-weng-choytrouble-with-harmony-2021/
undead things (2021 - ongoing)
undeadthings is a small personal project of weird / basic instruments for anyone to use / play / fiddle etc
all you need is a QWERTY keyboard (sorry Dvoraks)
undeadthings is proud to present its first instrument of a series of weird / basic things; QWER
QWER is a really really basic sampler / sequencer which is capable of recording 12 sound samples, played over 12 steps in its built in sequencer (16 is overrated)
QWER comes preloaded with samples and this purchase also comes with a manual to get your started + original samples
each instrument will come with updates and add-ons, if you have purchased the first version, subsequent updates / additions will be made available for free!
momok elektrik (2021 - ongoing)
Nine-channel sound (mono) installation, Pure Data, silkscreen on gunny sacks, mild steel frames and stands
momok elektrik is a choreography of sounds speculating our machine’s manner of codifying speech in a time to come. The installation imagines the momok (ghost, phantoms or spectres in Malay) in the machine as a being conjured through the continual interaction with human speech. From surveillance in the form of listening and its function in accumulating data, our relationship with machines in the future will revolve around the interdependency between us and machines, where both entities are entwined yet autonomous in the way we know one another. Conjuring new worlds and dimensions, these samples are now part of the machine’s vocabulary. Our speech is rendered musical. momok elektrik is a sonic commentary on imagining machine cognition as the modern-day spirit that wards off threats; an act of refusal to be listened to.
This work was realised with assistance from ila, Lina Adam and voice samples by Leslie Low, Nur Wahidah and Suhaili Safari.
momok elektrik was first shown at State of Motion 2021 and later in a group show, Wikicliki under the Singapore Art Museum.
In this second showing, voice samples included 3 additional sets of voice samples by Azril (Tentang Langit), Shak'thiya Subramaniamm and weish.
momok elektrik was premiered under a group exhibition State of Motion 2021, co-curated by Syaheedah Iskandar & Thong Kay Wee
"We're not satisfied with just making a noise." (2021)
Mixed media installation comprising of a 3D-printed clarinet and a multi-channel audio installation
Based on Haykal’s research into the the history and affect of the cultural Cold War through jazz in Southeast Asia, “We’re not satisfied with just making a noise.” is inspired by a performance on 27 December 1956 in Singapore by Benny Goodman, an American jazz clarinetist and bandleader known as the “King of Swing” who led racially integrated jazz groups. The title of the artwork is from a response Goodman gave when he was asked why his repertoire did not contain Rock n’ Roll music.
Prior to Goodman’s arrival in Singapore, he sent a replica of his clarinet to Runme Shaw as a show of appreciation to the members of the Musician’s Union of Singapore. For Haykal the clarinet was not only a symbol of friendship but also of the cultural Cold War, which was in part defined by an anti-communist perogative of American foreign policy. American policy makers began to appropriate black cultural products like jazz to make the argument that American democracy enabled creativity and to play down American racism. The US State Department arranged the travel of African American Jazz ‘diplomats’ like Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and Duke Ellington. Such cultural programmes were important for American diplomacy of the 1950s in Southeast Asia, where a wave of independence and solidarity movements were built on an ideal of anti-colonialism and anti-racism.
Haykal identifies the clarinet as an exceptional jazz instrument that becomes an object of disruption. Characterised as the most dynamic and sounding the most human, the clarinet is capable of not only producing loud, piercing tones, but also gentle, mellow, and soothing sounds. Represented through a 3-D printed replica, Goodman’s clarinet is deconstructed and presented in this installation suspended in a grey soundscape recalling the old Badminton Hall where Goodman gave his performance. Haykal's research into American jazz diplomacy points to the duplicitous history of jazz being mobilized as an ideological instrument of anti-communism used to bring people into a 'Free World' empire of American democracy and capitalism. Thus, his work can be read as a critical homage to the innocuous sounds of empire and the everyday humanity and idealism (associated with both race and music) that were deployed to geopolitically ends.
almost tomorrow (2020)
almost tomorrow was made over a period of time where time felt nonexistent so i stole bits of time between hustling for jobs, caring for our kid and trying not to have a meltdown
i think this is music i made to remind myself that if there isn't a future made for my family and friends, the least i could do is imagine one for us and draft it out sonically so at some point there's something to look back to
sifrmu (2019 - ongoing)
sifrmu is a mixed media installation which addresses human-machine kinship and intimacy. The work revolves around a mechanical keyboard and a patch which encrypts plaintext into a compounded cipher, comprising of a ciphertext written in Jawi, coupled with MIDI values. sifrmu is a portmanteau of sifr, the etymology of the word cipher, which is Arabic (and Malay) for ‘zero’ and mu which is a Malay suffix for ‘you / yours’.
sifrmu no. 0 (2020)
sifrmu no. 3 (2020)
THIS IS YOU GLITCHING MY DEATH (2019)
For this volume, Haykal played with the idea of futurity from the perspective of unrealized dreams. Written and recited mostly in Malay, his voice roams from the freeform poetic to the wrathful protest speech, to seductive reflections of the early Malay pop singers wrapped in unorthodox musical composition. The works in This is You Glitching My Death examine anxieties in a situation to disrupt the mundanities into poetic territory that confronts time on its own terms.
Label: Hasana Editions
Limited Edition Cassette. Numbered edition of 100.
Hand-stamped pro-dubbed C36 NAC super-ferric cassette tape with recto/verso printed silver card. Made & duped in USA. Printed in Indonesia.
Includes unlimited streaming of This is You Glitching My Death via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
The Public Repository of Canned Laughter (2016 - 2018)
The Public Repository of Canned Laughter / Applause seeks to open up ways of watching the watchers, to consider new / alternative feedback mechanisms in order to engage with power and its illusions.as an ongoing project, The Public Repository of Canned Laughter / Applause seeks to open up ways of watching the watchers, to consider new / alternative feedback mechanisms in order to engage with power and its illusions.these sets were recorded on 3 separate occasions;1. Canned Laughter / Singapore (recorded at The Necessary Stage's Black Box - May 2016)in the 1950s, American sound engineer Charles Douglass invented the Laff Box, a unique instrument which he performed during filming for TV sitcoms with a live studio audience to encourage, or rather, "sweeten" any given joke or scenario meant to invoke laughter. from the role of a facilitator of perception to the existence of feedback from being watched, the laugh track or canned laughter is the object of desire missing in the rise of the surveillance state, having turned everyone into an actor of what might be the most perverse sitcom in human history.
these sets were recorded on 4 separate occasions;
1. Canned Laughter / Singapore (recorded at The Necessary Stage's Black Box - May 2016)
2. Canned Applause / Singapore (recorded at ArtScience Museum - October 2016)
3. Canned Laughter + Applause / Taipei, Taiwan (recorded at TheCube Project Space - December 2016)
4. Canned Laughter + Applause / Singapore (recorded at The Parkview Museum - January 2018)
Two mono channel sound installation written on Pure Data, with samples from The Public Repository of Canned Laughter
The Public Repository of Canned Laughter was premiered under a group exhibition, Moment Untimely Encounter 2016, curated by Byunghee Lee at Alternative Space LOOP.
necropolis for those without sleep (2015 - 2018)
The Cultural Cold War, where the prefix ‘Cultural’ symbolises the strategies and methods built around the interest of engagement during the Cold War, is a significant period where culture was widely exported as part of state propaganda by the US promoting the promise of democracy. Musicologist Stuart Nicholson, in his book Jazz and Culture in the Global Age, addresses the complexities of the internationalisation of Jazz music during the Cold War, stating, “…the successful projection of image over reality, whereby American jazz ceased to be “a thing in itself,”[ ]…[ ]instead came with the weight of American cultural power behind it, projecting the symbols and myths of American democracy and freedom to encourage other nations to be sympathetic to the ideology of the United States…”. Yet methods of disseminating power and control over society, particularly through music, has been prevalent as far back as the 14th century, where minstrels are paid to serve kings, singing praises of their rule. Today, the resonances and residues of similar strategies by both public and private bodies in its efforts to demonstrate economic prowess and openness permitted / encouraged by the state, is not merely through cultural exports that is leading Singapore in the 21st century.
The city-state’s Smart Nation programme is an initiative that invites another round of social, political and economic inquiry altogether; the overlapping roles and interest of private and public institutions and their influence / control over the public, people and spaces. Where venture capitalists, artists, entrepreneurs and policy makers are further embroiled and entangled in the dominant capitalist narrative where the presence, existence and roles of the general public and its spaces are often ignored or exploited (who truly benefits or profits from products / services such as Facebook and Google?) in an attempt to run and feed the economy (and those who operate it), this present landscape (referred to as a necropolis) offers a brief impression of a past riddled with control, power and contradictions. Amplifying theories of writer and researcher Evgeny Morozov, where he wrote, “Technological amnesia and complete indifference to history (especially the history of technological amnesia) remain the defining features of contemporary Internet debate.”, this work references and draws parallels from the concept / ideas behind the late 18th century invention by Wolfgang von Kempelen, the Mechanical Turk (also alluding to the present day usage / presence of the term and service by electronic commerce company Amazon.com), ‘necropolis for those without sleep’ reflects on systems of power and the desire to project (protect) it, examining the complex network and relationships of the political, economic and social landscapes and ask questions pertaining to the role of the public in the present neoliberal climate, where control mechanisms such as fear, entertainment and boredom are calibrated to orchestrate supply without demand.
Installation with custom designed mechanical turks, computer-programmed chess game, 3D printed chess pieces and jumpsuits.
TV monitor, CCTV and texts digitally printed on A4 cardstock.
cut-up A4 photo paper with frames.
"The Americans have colonized our subconscious." (2014)
Taken from a line off Wim Wender’s film, Kings of the Road, the work is a reflection of dominant soft power strategies and effects employed by nation states in the name of cultural diplomacy. Where Singapore has triumphed in its diplomatic relations throughout the world with culture as a growing pivotal tool, I parallel these activities to strategies employed by the US during the Cold War. Where Jazz music became a crucial medium to not only wipe clean the growing anti-American sentiments throughout the world post Hiroshima, it was also important to project a predefined concept of freedom (both intellectual and expression) through the promise of democracy, an ideology that proves to be, not just politically and morally superior, but also the antithesis of Soviet Communism. As an instrument that’s mounted on the wall, I had designed and tuned the instrument to messy, irregular intervals, crossing the strings against one another to illustrate the dissonances of cultural appropriation, considering the future of mainstream music that would surface within Singapore out of the present exponential affects and interests of globalisation.
Enamel paint, electric guitar & bass pickups, machine heads, bridge, electric guitar and bass strings on wooden planks
120cm x 39cm x 2cm (x2)
The National Conversation (2014)
I was intrigued by the Government of Singapore’s interest to engage in a National Conversation with the people to consider the future of Singapore’s national and political architecture. Of course, with a certain level of skepticism. I begin by asking, what is a ‘national conversation’ and how do we define and think about the nature of conversations? I considered the abstract nature of feedback and devised a mechanism which produces a sound likened to those of crickets.
Electric fan, microphone, speaker, mixer, amplifier and used books
The Antiguitar or How to save the electric guitar from brainless rockstars of the 21st century (2013)
The Antiguitar is also from the Dormant Music series made during my residency at Platform 3, Bandung. It considers the cultural baggage and associations the electric guitar carries upon itself, what it projects onto others and how it exists in our consciousness. The electric guitar, a customary icon of Western music (from Blues to Rock ’n’ Roll to Heavy Metal etc), an instrument that was also involved in revolutionising dissonance and noise, is attached, or rather, locked in to these contexts and concepts. In order to "liberate" the instrument from these cultural associations, I felt it was necessary to gracefully destroy and dismantle the instrument. By dissecting the instrument, I consider other methods of reading and interfacing with this newly assembled object. What is it now? Where the instrument lacks precision in tension therefore affecting pitch and scales, it’s ambiguous and unpredictable nature gives it life; the object no longer simply executes, it offers suggestions, almost as if engaging in a conversation or debate with the person interfacing with it.
Electric guitar, additional tuning pegs and fixed bridge
The Recycle (2012)
The Recycle is from a series of instruments / objects (under the title Dormant Music) I had made whilst in residency at Platform 3, Bandung, Indonesia under The Art Incubator programme. Essentially Dormant Music was a means and challenge for me to step outside the boundaries of, not just traditional song form, but to push the idea of thinking and imagining music outside the sonic space. For this work I was thinking and considering the subjectivity of dissonance, reflecting on both traffic conditions and musical activity. Where the concept of dissonance in music has been used to denote or represent, among others, tension, unpleasantness and suspense, I considered how these evocations or suggestions could be manifested physically. To be able to experience through sight and sound, simultaneously, the presence and illustration of dissonance. Being in Bandung made me question and ponder on commuting; its consonances and dissonances.