Sounding Architecture

Department: Architecture
Active Dates: April 2015 - May 2017

Principal Investigator: Thomas TSANG
Funding body: Mellon Visiting Artist Residency at Wellesley College


Sound and Space. Architecture and Music. Building as Instrument. This project aims to exchange knowledge between the Department of Architecture and the Department of Music in the design and production of new musical instruments as inspired by the theory and practice of architectural furniture; and to offer the public a different experience of musical performance and the utilization of objects.

Aeolus is inspired by the epic meeting between Odysseus and Aeolus, the keeper of the winds in Homer’s Odyssey who lives on a floating island in the sea. The opera reimagines these mythic personalities through a series of abstract performance diptychs pitting Keno Ueno’s extended vocal techniques (as Aeolus) against Majel Connery’s fluid, lyrical mode (as Odysseus). Thomas Tsang’s fluid, mobile scenic design evokes the features of Aeolus’s windswept island. Robert Hass’s libretto features the voice of the author and consists of haiku-like bridging texts, meditations on the connection of breath to body and to death.

“Aeolus” (formerly “Hong Kong Graft”) is the second opera by Rome- and Berlin-Prize winning composer/performer, Ken Ueno, and is written in conjunction with librettist Robert Hass (2008 Pulizer Prize and 1995-97 U.S. poet laureate), architect Thomas Tsang, and vocalist Majel Connery. Originally commissioned by Opera Cabal, the first module of “Aeolus” was workshopped during a residency at High Concept Laboratories/Mana Contemporary (Chicago) in April 2015.


Working in bold, experimental paradigms, on the possibilities and limitations of real-time collaborative work, and the pragmatics of developing performance with stakes in the professional art world. Exploring topics on artistic that include 21st-century opera; modern experimental vocal and compositional techniques; site-specific fabrication in modern architecture; sound/space installation; political art in China since 1997; and the collaborative artistic process in multimedia.


A music preview of the entire opera will be presented at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston) with string ensemble A Far Cry on April 20, 2017.


  • Ken Ueno, Majel Connery, Thomas Tsang, a residency and performance at High Concept Laboratories/Mana Contemporary (Chicago) in April 2015.
  • Ken Ueno, Majel Connery & Thomas Tsang, a residency and performance at High Concept Laboratories/Mana Contemporary (Chicago) in April 2015.
  • Thomas Tsang, Jose Vicente Neglia, Deborah Waugh. Sounding Architecture. HKU Interdisclipinary Knowledge Exchange Fund. Submitted April 2016.
  • Thomas Tsang. Sounding Architecture. HKU Experiential Learning Fund. Submitted May 2016.

Anticipated Impact
Newhouse Center at Wellesley College (Spring 2017)

  • Dialogue/Symposium with Wellesley College community:
    • Topic: new directions in multimedia and interdisciplinary art. With guest artists Ken Ueno, Majel Connery & Thomas Tsang, moderated by Martin Brody with Jenny Johnson, Daniela Rivera, Andrew Mowbray (TBD) and Nick Knouf (TBD).
  • Dialogue/Symposium with Welleslley College community:
    • Topic: experimental vocal techniques in 21st-century music and theater. With guest artists Majel Connery and Ken Ueno, moderated by Diego Arciniegas (TBD) with Jenny Johnson and Martin Brody.
  • Dialogue/Symposium with Wellesley College community:
    • Topic: Chinese art and politics in the wake of the 1997. A conversation with guest artist Thomas Tsang moderated by Heping Liu, with Mingwei Song (TBD) and Bill Joseph
Enlarge Photo: Sounding Architecture 1Enlarge Photo: Sounding Architecture 2