I first read about the AGO Student Commissioning Project in August last year when the TAO magazine arrived. I thought to myself, how boring it was not to allow a composer/organist to do it on her own. What I didn’t notice was that the winner in the previous year was actually someone that I know fairly well, Mr. Alex Meszler. At the beginning-of-school year organ studio party, he approached me and encouraged me to find someone to enter it, and I suggested in return that he should try it two years in a row, if he had a greater plan in mind. So that led to the piece, and the first organ composition I started (but not the first one that was completed, that went to a little chorale prelude).
The opening theme was written before it was decided to be an organ piece. I began the piece with another instrumentation in mind (percussion and flute, for another pair of my good friends), which allows me to explore dryness and silence better than the organ. Yet, I was determined that if I were writing something for organ, I would write something atypical to the organ repertoire and creating unusual sounds, so I did not even change a single note from my first draft. As I continued writing, the whole piece just laid in front of my eyes, which was a very interesting feeling. I never wrote anything as smooth as this piece, and it felt wonderful to just pour out notes after notes.
After completing the piece and look back, I could still recall the feeling of writing music effortlessly. However, writing for organ is simply a nightmare. I am writing something with organ in it, but not a solo piece. Just like writing for orchestra, I would think a thousand times before I decide on writing another solo organ piece.
That said, my first attempt of writing for orchestra is actually rearranging and orchestrating THIS EXACT PIECE. It is definitely too difficult for a large orchestra though.
As all the project requirements were completed, now Alex and I can head to our next destination in peace. Good luck at ASU Alex.
Lalita is the name of one of the eight principal gopis in Gaudiya Vaishnavism. She is known as Krishna’s loving consort, with a fierce and loving personality. She is beautiful, smart, and spontaneous. Like other female deities in Hinduism, she possesses the feminine energy that is charming and enigmatic.
I started writing the piece with a very simple melody with a dance-like accompaniment, yet it is soon fused with much complexity in harmony and rhythm in a way I did not foresee. The crafting process was almost effortless, and I barely spent any time on designing the tonal language and formal structure. The name Lalita came to me by accident after I completed the piece. Though the work does not have any religious references, and I consider it as a piece of absolute music, Lalita’s mysterious beauty captures the spirit of the piece perfectly.
The piece was commissioned by the American Guild of Organists Student Commissioning Project 2016. Premiered by Alex Meszler at Bales Recital Hall, the University of Kansas on April 26, 2016.
但探他的主要原因是看看Vermillion的National Music Museum。這小小的博物館在音樂圈子裡真的是有名。當中的展品有很多都是很罕見的樂器。有些很古怪，也有些很精緻。然而在這兒看到了一個未被平均律污染的琵琶和「代表香港」的古琴（…），真的是有點意外。但我和朋友最大的問號是：這些樂器很多都沒有機會弄出聲音來了，那不是很可惜麼？然而，一個「音樂博物館」，只有一部Portable Media Player在門口的gift shop播著用上其中一部fortepiano來錄製的CD，音樂的原素在哪？
I really wasn’t planning on attending any of the commencement festivities, but Dr. Pierce said he needed to take a photo with me at the convocation, that’s why I have to be there. Receiving the notice of me graduating with distinction also surprised me a little. I thought about buying all those fancy ribbon and cords from Phi Kappa Phi, but eventually I forgot about it, but I still have a little something to decorate my black gown.
Anyways, I can say I am done with undergrad finally, (almost) officially. When Dr. Bergee said, “Your life will no longer be the same,” as I walked through the stage, it warmed my heart. Leaving KU is just the beginning a very long journey. I look forward to write a lot more music.
I don’t know how many times I thought about giving up and return to engineering in the last 4 years. How drastic my mind had changed every semester, this ride was really, really bumpy. At the same time, I totally felt that my physical energy is not as strong as I was when I was an engineer. I grew old, a little. I also realised that there are many facets of life, my world shouldn’t only be about work. I have to take care of myself, my family, my interests, and people I care.
And as always, Eurovision is such an important end-of-semester show for me. I like how the show is organized, and seeing Globen and the sights of Stockholm reminded me of the wonderful place and all the amazing experiences, as it opened once again my door to music and ignited my desire for explorations. How much I wish I could be there once again. While Ukraine got its crown in a rather drastic way (well, I really thought the EBU was trying to avoid the ESC going to Australia, after all), I am glad that they provided the world such a profound sound. Ukraine is the other place that had a profound impact on me, thanks to my church choir in Sweden which organized its annual trip to the painful country.
So much places for me to see and experience, too many things to write about and reflect on.
Essentially my degree isn’t finished yet, I still have a presentation for my Schenkerian class to be done on Thursday, yet I’m done with the writing, the class is really not part of the requirement, and I consider myself as done with everything. I am finally done with all the undergraduate work, in 7 years, and I earned some kind of good academic standing in both of my engineering and music degrees, I couldn’t be more grateful for all the recognition my teachers have granted me and how much they nurtured me.
Looking at what I have done in the past year, it is kind of scary to look at it. I have done my theory thesis, poured out 6 compositions (which one is doubled by an orchestra version), and some tiny works on the organ. This semester I also had to write two 4000+-word paper in 2-week notice. Could I be more hardworking than that? Maybe. Every semester I feel it was the hardest semester ever, but the following semester became worse. Maybe that’s life.
In terms of my future, I am still 100% certain that I want to have a teaching career, but I am also becoming more certain that I want to compose. I want my voice to be heard. Yet I also feel really sad when I was done with my physics tutoring – I am not ready to give up my little bit of participation in science.
I was at the non-major organ recital last night briefly, just to support a friend who eventually improvised the Bach chorale in Orgelbuchlein. I was very touched by a beginner’s playing of the hymn adapted from Holst’s The Planets. It was by no means technically perfect, but the organ sound touched me, for the very first time for quite a long time. (two years maybe?) I wasn’t sure whether it was the organ sound or The Planets the touched me. At the end, what makes music moving? It seems like nothing could explain it.
The piece is based on a Cantonese Melody, which is a lullaby sung by a mother to her son. It also contains hope for the son to grow up well and be a good member of the family. I imagine that the young son was trying to act naughty as he listened to the song, but he could not resist the kind voice of and gradually fell asleep.
Premiered by Shirin Abvabi (clarinet), Miriam Brack Webber (bassoon) and Teng Fu (piano) on October 20, 2015 at Swarthout Recital Hall, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.
Star Ferry is a major tourist attraction in Hong Kong. It has more than a hundred years of history, and the ferry carries passengers across the Victoria Harbour. As people wait for the ride and get aboard, one can hear the low-pitched ferry horn, beeps from the gates, lots of footsteps, and of course, water. I try to capture the sounds and the motion of the ferry in this piece. The tuba represents the movement of the ferry, from getting ready to depart to its arrival on the other side of the Harbour, while the piano mimics the environmental noise where the ferry locates. The pitch content of the piece is completely taken from the opening gestures of the tuba part. They are arranged in a 9-chord series and are played several times before the series retrogrades.
premiered by Max Gerhart (tuba) and Christina Liu (piano) on April 6, 2016 at Swarthout Recital Hall, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS.
Cèilidh, in Scottish Gaelic language, is a social gathering with many dances.The set was written for Margaret Lambie as part of the collaboration project of the composition and flute studios. Margaret expressed her interest in Celtic music when we met, while I was firstly exposed to Scottish fiddling when I attended Silkroad’s Global Musician Workshop in summer 2015. I thought it would be interesting to write a piece for her in different Celtic styles.
This set of flute solo work is eventually inspired by Celtic and American fiddle tunes and folk songs (yet only one folk tune, Little Mary Cassidy, is quoted in the third movement). The three movements are written in American, Scottish and Irish styles respectively, and the titles are taken from poems from the same region. It is arranged to tell a simple love story – from the initial electrifying attraction, to the sacred promise, and finally the happiness dwelling within.
I’ll Love Thee for those Sparkling Eyes — A Country Dance
I’d Shelter Thee, I’d Shelter Thee — An Air
To Love You in the Old High Way of Love — A Hornpipe
The 5 short pieces written in 2014 were inspired by 5 quotes from poems and Quran, all of which described different forms of water. The deeper meanings of the quotes, however, were related to memories, aging and death. I tried to mimic water on the piano by using different figures, and the form of each piece was modelled after the content in the text. The piece was written in loving memory of my Grandmother Huang Yeying (1932-2014), who passed away on the day I started working on the piece.
Recorded by Qichen Jiang in October 2015, premiered by Neal Long on April 6, 2016.
It happened. My senior composition recital was held on April 6, 2016.
Starting composing 3 years ago, and I barely wrote anything last school year, I actually made it to the end with a recital than ran badly overtime. It was definitely a miracle. I am also very grateful for all these people, who gave me a lot of encouragement and support. Without them my music wouldn’t be heard.
I still barely felt the existence of the recital, I am still very confused that it actually was over. (or, I barely realized that it was coming also) All I know is that it is just the very beginning of more compositions to come, and more people will know that there will be some weird music coming up.
One of my colleagues gave me his organ piece the day after the recital, that made me think what I could still do for the organ world. I hate how the organ society works, I am not happy that I’m stuck with those standard repertoire by the masters’ (in Schenker’s style of speech), I want to do something different, maybe I could specialize in “ultra-new” works by composers that are not organists. And I could perform pieces by great contemporary composers which organists do not care about.