Xudong Zhang

Xudong Zhang

Professor of Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies, Director of China House, NYU


Xudong Zhang was born in Beijing and educated at Peking and Duke. He is a Professor of Comparative Literature, and a Professor of East Asian Studies at New York University, where he also directs the International Center for Critical Theory(ICCT). Between 2008 and 2020, he was a Visiting Chair Professor in Comparative Literature and Humanities at Peking University, where he founded and directed, until 2020, the PKU counterpart of ICCT. Among his ongoing concerns are the rethinking of critical theory in global, particularly non-Western, situations and contexts; modernism and modernity; political philosophy; and critical analysis of Chinese literature and culture. Publishing in both English and Chinese, he is the author of Chinese Modernism in the Era of Reforms; The Order of the Imaginary-Critical Theory and Modern Chinese Literature (in Chinese); Cultural Identity in the Age of Globalization-A Historical Critique of Western Discourses of Universalism (in Chinese); Postsocialism and Cultural Politics; Cultural Politics and the Chinese Way (in Chinese); Modernity and Formal Inventions: Toward A Critical Concept of Literary History (in Chinese); and, co-authored with Mo Yan, Writing in Our Times.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE