In the sparse text adorning the inside cover of her new CD, Lee Pui Ming writes “when one is completely present in the moment - playing, or listening - who, then, in that moment, is playing, and who, is listening.” This statement propagates subtle questions of communication, transference, projection, osmosis, intuition, and collectivity, establishing a soundscape-building process inclusive of critical extra-temporal reflection. Not only is she questioning what is happening, but how, and the multifarious contributions of time, moment, and influence. Having lived and studied in then-British Hong Kong, Minnesota, and Washington prior to settling in Toronto, diversity of influence is a key (though jagged and unkempt) factor in her work, revealing the acknowledged involvement with the music of McCoy Tyner, Herbie Hancock, Prokofiev, Bartok, and Chinese traditional and pop musics.
Interestingly, the success of the improvisations documented on this recording directly corresponds with Lee’s distance from the piano keyboard (her primary instrument). The most keyboard-centric pieces display rigidity and reliance on perpetual motion that primarily focuses attention onto the permeating square rhythmic grid negatively imprinted with syntheses of Webern, Nancarrow, and Sorabji. With distance from the keyboard, and movement onto the strings and wood of the instrument, using the body and voice as sound sources, comes a liberation of expression. The de-emphasis of pitch allows for the successful confluence of further-reaching, expressive, organic and magnetic, timbre-based gestures that display a playful and exploratory approach to sound. Overall, the weaknesses are mildly diffused by the sensitive ordering of the whole, but not dissolved by the otherwise inventive diversity.