COVID Companions is a series of creative pieces featuring snippets of life during COVID-19, with a special focus on the other individuals or creatures who are keeping us company during quarantine, lockdown, ‘circuit breaker’, or whatever your equivalent might be.
Two friends, Rachel Leia Devadason and Wong Yong En, dwelling in parallel digital spaces, feeling out a new form of togetherness and intimacy, and living out each day’s expanding-contracting time in measured ticks. Their film, “If We Twin Too Long in the Dream Cinema” was first published by The Substation’s new web series, Isolation, where artists, creatives, and academics discuss and respond to issues faced by the arts community in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yong En: Candidly speaking, I think the collaboration was the catalyst for us to start texting every day. Something we weren’t doing when you were in the UK.
Leia: I agree! Working together on this required us to be constantly connected. And I remember how hard it was to conceptualise and execute the entire project online… thinking back to those draining Zoom calls and Telegram voice messages and pictures of makeshift storyboards going back and forth between us!
Yong En: On the other hand, there is also loneliness to creating online. For example, I recorded my utensils improvisation alone, and then you watched it and responded to that. In real-time, that felt lonely, but it was fascinating to create the togetherness retrospectively.
Leia: Yeah! But I’m glad we managed to preserve elements of live togetherness with the two crucial duets in the film: the slow dance and the vocal accompaniment. Creating the dance was the hardest part because it required intuition and synchrony. Since we couldn’t see each other, we relied on a metronome to mediate between us. I felt that achieving synchrony produced the intimacy it was meant to convey.
Yong En: It did— which is why we wanted the vocal duet to react to and reinforce the dance. That’s why we improvised the music to the dance rather than the other way around. There were two stimuli to respond to: the footage and the real-time musical decisions that either of us made. What a playground!
Leia: I loved it! And afterwards, editing our voices required me to sense and to some extent invent the start of our duet, hoping the harmonies fell into place. The themes and inescapable reality of distance and separation were always present every step of the way. I found this to be new and fulfilling, actually. Of course, the creative conditions were less than ideal, but finding a way to forge intimacy as creators and participants was the point of the work, wasn’t it? So I am happy with it as a representation of such a unique period of time.
Leia Devadason graduated from The School of The Arts, Singapore (SOTA) in 2017 and is approaching her third year of studying Music at King’s College, Cambridge, under the Loke Cheng-Kim scholarship.
She sees herself as a jack-of-some-trades musician, and has played piano, harpsichord (Articulations with King’s College Music Society), and percussion (The Prismatic Harpsichord with SOTA), as well as sung (The Experimental Man by Chowk Productions) in concerts and creative projects. As a composer, she has written concert music which has been performed both in Singapore and Cambridge, including works for The National Gallery of Singapore’s visual art exhibition ‘Reframing Modernism’ (2016) and Cambridge University’s ‘The Minerva Festival’ (2020). Aside from music, she practises Indian Classical Dance and writes creatively and academically, the latter being at the intersection of musicology, history and sociology. Feeling the need to integrate these endeavours, she is increasingly creating more holistic works, such as The Substation video commission If We Twin Too Long in The Dream Cinema (2020), and ‘Articulations’ (2019), a concert she directed and staged in King’s College Chapel, which aimed to dismantle the distinctions between speech, sound, and music. Follow her at @lesmiserachels
Wong Yong En grew up in children choirs and studied music at the School of the Arts and eventually decided music is not bad. She has since entered the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, from whence she will graduate in 2022 with a Bachelor of Music in Music, Collaboration, and Production. She is interested in Renaissance lute songs, Baroque oratorio and opera, contemporary improvisation, and French art song. Her favourite projects include Sonic Blossom (2018), where she sang Schubert lieder to strangers wandering the National Gallery, and the Bach Cantata Series with Masaaki Suzuki (2019), where I sang ensemble and chorus in J.S Bach’s Motet, “Jesu Meine Freude”. She studied Classical ballet for 11 years, and holds (shakily) a Merit certification in Intermediate Ballet from the Royal Academy of Dance. Currently, she study at Chowk Studios, a contemporary dance company which teaches Odissi.
She advocates for arts accessibility by serving as a Supporter at the Access Arts Hub. She has also worked with Children’s Cancer Foundation, Down Syndrome Association, Friends of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) Families, SG Enable, and Singapore Special Voices. Follow her at @w.yongen