Famed Acoustician Albert Xu and Musical Artist Mimi Xu Explore Sound at Oberlin Nov. 2 and 3

October 26, 2017

By Erich Burnett

portrait of musical artist Mimi Xu

Father and daughter take part in talks and an artistic collaboration presented with the conservatory’s TIMARA department.

The art and science of sound rests at the heart of the Xu family, whose members have forged dynamic careers exploring very different avenues of the same phenomenon.

Beginning with a pair of public talks on November 2, Albert Xu and daughter Mimi Xu will hold a residency at Oberlin College and Conservatory presented through the Connected Learning Initiative of the Oberlin Center for Convergence, or StudiOC, a newly formed hub for interdisciplinary learning on campus.

Albert Xu is one of the world’s best known acoustic architects, whose work can be heard in major concert halls around the globe. His Paris-based company, Xu-Acoustique, specializes in acoustic design solutions for performing arts facilities incorporating psychoacoustic research, computer simulations, scale-model testing, and on-site tuning of spaces.

His daughter, the multidisciplinary performance artist Mimi Xu, has established herself as one of the most sought-after music directors for a global fashion, beauty, and luxury clientele. Her enterprise incorporates her parallel interests in sound design, composition of original music for film soundtracks and designer campaigns, magazine publishing, and her work as a professional DJ under the alias Misty Rabbit. A classically trained pianist who was raised in France, Xu creates her soundtracks from a vast and eclectic list of pop, electronic, and classical music, as well as her own compositions.

Each will present a talk at Oberlin on Thursday, November 2, followed on November 3 by a multimedia installation developed by Mimi Xu and Oberlin students.

Beginning at noon Thursday, Albert Xu will discuss his career in “Invisible Acoustics Perform a Symphony of Architecture.” As head of Xu-Acoustique, Xu has conducted research on some of the world’s most important performance venues, including the Vienna Musikverein, and has led major projects from Taiwan to Rio de Janeiro.

Lunch will be served during Albert Xu’s session.

From 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. Thursday, Mimi Xu will present a multimedia talk called “Reverse Scoring: From Sound to Images,” which calls upon her extensive experience in fashion-world music direction. “Our society puts much more attention to images and leaves sound as a secondary sensory mode most of the time,” says Mimi Xu, who counts among her clients Versace and Prada. “My work attempts to bring attention back to sound first. Whether it’s in fashion, commercial, film, or performances, I try to use sound as a starting point.”

Both talks will be held in Oberlin’s new StudiOC, 38 East College St., located adjacent to the Hotel at Oberlin on Main Street. A hub for cross-campus collaboration, StudiOC is home to a continuing series of courses that merge the worlds of the college and conservatory.

On Friday, November 3, Mimi Xu will take part in “Awkward Moments Series III ,” the latest installment in a series of artistic collaborations involving Xu that explore the biological life cycle using music as a point of departure. The six-part installation, which involves students from Oberlin’s studio art, cinema studies, dance, and TIMARA departments, takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Birenbaum Innovation and Performance Space, located on the lower level of the Hotel at Oberlin (10 East College St.). Xu will be joined by collaborator Anna Senno, the project’s creative producer.

Awkward Moments Series I and II were held in London, Barcelona, and Copenhagen.

At 9:30 p.m., a reception for “Awkward Moments” will begin in the Birenbaum. At 8 p.m. Oberlin’s Contemporary Music Ensemble will perform in Warner Concert Hall.

In preparation for the residency, students of TIMARA professor Peter Swendsen have been working with Mimi Xu on the installation and creating promotional materials.

“We are so pleased to host Albert, Mimi, and Anna,” says Swendsen. “Connecting with practitioners so deeply engaged in the creation and presentation of art and music around the world provides our students enormous insight and inspiration.

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