IMOGEN HEAP, GARETH BONELLO, JAMIE WOON AND MATTHEW BOURNE WERE CHOSEN FROM AROUND 40 NOMINATED APPLICANTS TO TAKE PART IN THE FIRST CHINA RESIDENCY PROGRAMME IN 2012.
The residencies are designed to enable innovative British musicians to explore new musical territory, reach new audiences and write new material in the context of a changing international market.
Between October 2011 and March 2012, the musicians travelled to four cities across China: Hangzhou (East China), Xi'an (North China), Chengdu (South West China) and Xiamen (South China).
Grammy Award-winning singer, composer and songwriter Imogen Heap visited Hangzhou where she spent time working with local artists and communities to create a new track 'Xizi She Knows' for her fourth album Sparks. The song is made up of field recordings from 24 different locations around Hangzhou captured over a 24 hour period in the city.
BRIT school graduate and dubstep-influenced singer and producer Jamie Woon visited Xi'an, home to the First Emperor's tomb and his terracotta warriors. Despite his father being Malaysian-Chinese, Jamie admitted to being "completely in the dark about Chinese music." Jamie explored the local rock scene in Xi'an and shared his musical ideas via a regular radio programme. He also recorded and gave public performances. In 2016, his album Making Time was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize featuring the song "Little Wonder" which was written while in China on the residency: "It came out of solitude and being away from people I love," explained Jamie, "it’s a message back home."
Welsh folk multi-instrumentalist Gareth Bonello travelled to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province. Bonello, who was nominated for the residency by BBC DJ Huw Stephens, collaborated with local folk instrumentalists on material for a new album titled Y Bardd Anfarwol (The Immortal Bard). The album fuses Chinese and Welsh traditional music and poetry and received widespread critical praise. It was awarded the Welsh Album of the Year award at the 2014 National Eisteddfod. In 2015 he returned to China to complete a seven date tour across Chongqing, Kunming and Chengdu.
Pianist and composer Matthew Bourne travelled to Xiamen and the nearby Gu Lang Yu Island, known as piano island since the 19th century. Bourne was hosted by the Art College of Xiamen University where he gave lectures and created new musical pieces, building on his impressive body of experimental work for piano. You can read about his experiences in China here.