Recommended Listening: Lucy Liyou - Practice
Family dynamics are complicated enough to navigate during normal times, but throw a global pandemic on top of everything and long-buried tensions begin to bubble up, defining our interactions with those near and dear to us. We are all (understandably) on edge and feeling a bit raw, so while this shift can feel exasperating, it makes sense, really.
Lucy Liyou, the Philadelphia-based, Korean-American composer and sound artist has perfectly captured this new and difficult reality on their recently-released piece, Practice. The sometimes-beautiful-sometimes-jarring album documents a particularly heavy stretch during the summer of 2020 during which the artist's mother spent time in Korean quarantine before being allowed to care for their ailing grandmother. Listening to Practice recalls a famous Tolstoyan opening line, and though we cannot presume to draw conclusions about Lucy Liyou's family, we can commiserate and connect through shared emotion.
The beautiful/jarring description of Liyou's compositions is rooted in the artist's collage of tender piano melodies with robotic speech-to-text-delivered spats. Piano instrumentation opens and closes the album, and also flows through the middle during highlight track Easiest. According to the narration, it seems that piano connects generations in Liyou's family, hence its inclusion and use as a symbol. The dialogue, then, juxtaposes these soft melodies with verbal barbs. Family members project insecurities on one another, intent is assumed, too much is said and not enough is said, and breaks in empathy occur. Again, while these are universal occurrences, the context of these particular conversations is absolutely unique and adds to the charged nature of the album.
Generations from now, when people search for artifacts showing how the pandemic felt for families, Practice can act as a fair encapsulation of the pain, fear, love, and hope we are currently living. You can find Lucy Liyou's work released through Full Spectrum Records here, and just so you know, their grandmother turned 80 just a few days ago. Gotta love a happy ending.