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Award-winning album design tells old family story: artist

2012/05/09 22:28:00

Taipei, May 9 (CNA) Taiwanese label artist Qing-Yang Xiao said Wednesday that his design of a music album, which won a U.S. award on Monday, tells a 75-year-old family story.

"I tried to portray the relationship between a woman and her grandfather in six enveloped letters," Xiao said at a press conference.

Xiao's design of the album by Taiwanese jazz singer Macy Chen, titled "After 75 Years," won the best album-packaging award at the U.S. Independent Music Awards, which honors independent artists and releases. It is the first album released in the U.S. that features Mandarin songs in the jazz genre.

Xiao said the design was inspired by the true story of Chen, who had never met her grandfather but nevertheless shared his jazz dreams.

Chen left Taiwan in 2002 to study jazz music in New York, while her grandfather, a saxophone artist, left his wife and children in Taiwan and boarded a ship for Japan 75 years ago to pursue his jazz dreams, Xiao said.

Xiao said that after learning about the story, he consulted a team of writers, photographers and illustrators and embarked on the "difficult" task of recreating family history and developing a dialogue between Chen and her grandfather across time.

Bringing to bear his skill in portraying human emotions in designs, the four-time Grammy Award nominee set off with his team to interview Chen's relatives throughout Taiwan to piece together the family story that he said holds "sad memories."

On their mission, the team accidentally found a dusty bag that contained several handwritten music scores by Chen's grandfather and tearful letters written by her grandmother lamenting his departure. The letters were incorporated into the album design.

The album booklet includes six postmarked and stamped envelopes holding letters written in Chinese, Japanese and English. The letters contain questions Chen wanted to ask her grandfather and his imagined responses.

The cover of the album depicts a black envelope with an illustrated stamp that shows Chen watching the departure of her grandfather's ship from Keelung Port 75 years ago.

Xiao said the album design took him and his team a year and a half to complete because they had to conduct extensive research to make sure the stamps, postmarks, letters, envelopes, writings and dates were authentic representations of the time period.

For example, he said, to recreate letters sent from the Japanese ship that Chen's grandfather took, the team had to search for postmarks on real letters sent from the ship in the Showa Period.

To make the writing authentic, they asked a man in his 80s fluent in Japanese to recreate the letters from Chen's grandfather, Xiao said.

They even tried to find the location from which Chen's grandfather wrote the original letters, so that they could include details such as a bridge in their illustrations, said Kid Jerry, an illustrator on the team.

Xiao said he felt the work depicted "the emotions of an entire family" and that he felt a personal connection with the story.

"When I heard about the story, I felt like it was my story. It's the story of every Taiwanese," he said.

Winning the award has been more affirmation and encouragement for him, said the artist, who won the award last year with his design for local musician Cin Cin Lee's work "Story Island."

"Taiwan already has the creative ability. We don't have to be too shy. Instead, we should show others what we already have," Xiao said.

(By Christie Chen)