Wintergreen Summer Music Academy 2016

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It has been a little while since the festival, since right before the festival I was in the process of moving out, and right after I went back to Lawrence and loaded all my belongings in a car that had wiring problems, and drove two days to Tallahassee, FL. Now I have settled in Tally for a week and I can finally typed something here about the festival.IMG_2528

I think it is my first participation in a festival. Last year I was at the Global Musician Workshop, but that’s really more like a one-week intensive of world music tIMG_2417hat does not involve many guests artists or is loaded with tonnes of performances. Wintergreen is located in the mountains with some really interesting history, in many ways it surprised me, by the scale as well as the organization, but more inspiring than the concerts were the people I met here and the scenery.

 

In terms of composition, I must say it was more because of me being lazy, as well as not willing tIMG_2402o start a big project in this transition process, that I didn’t do too much in these two weeks. (and we weren’t assigned anything during the festival) But I spend so much time talking with fellow composers, about life, really intimate parts of life, as well as our views on music. It really made me think how introspective I am as a person, I listen to others a lot, I hear a lot of stories, I ask myself why they matter, I ask how I could do something, either through music or my own actions. At the same time, I really need to listen to a lot more music.

I was assigned to work with the Trillium quartet, 3 of theIMG_2544 members were still in high school and one is a freshman to-be. I knew I wrote a simple piece. However, it turned out that for the kids, they didn’t found it that simple (while they worked on Beach’s string quartet in one movement which is, to be honest, a million times harder), and they progressed fast. In the unexpected dress rehearsal, things went really well, but in the real performance, they probably suffered from both anxiety and fatigues, that the performance/recording was not as satisfactory. Nonetheless,  I had a great time seeing the kids working hard and asked intelligent questions, and really tried to make things sound good. They are all so gifted and I hope to see them shine on big stages soon.

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The composers also had a chance to write a movie score collaboratively. The more-than-a-thousand-measure monster of music was executed in a very nice manner. I heard some words about the project, but it was a great experience for u s. There are a lot of funny moments in the movie that was illustrated through the score effectively.

I also volunteered to help the chef Giustino in preparing dinner once, and I think I learned how to use the deep fryer perfectly after frying two big boxes of tofu and 3 packs of dumplings. It is veryinteresting to hear his perspective as a chef and an observer of the festival, and his participating in a salsa band.

The most impressive and inspiring thing during my stay is definitely everything about Joseph Conyers. Not just because he presented a ridiculously wonderful bass concert, but his absolutely passionate and useful masterclass that addresses so much performance issues, his absolutely selfless sharing on his musical journey and his project 440. I really would ask, how can one has such a big heart, such musicality, and such entrepreneurship? Maybe having a big heart itself is the answer.

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I really miss the nights when my housemates and a friend hanged out in a 70s-styled house in the woods, but in many ways, I am glad that I am back to the modern world and I am using a modern stove.

Story behind Lalita

I first reIMG_2242ad 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 (2015)

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. 

See more details from the AGO website.

Sioux Falls and Omaha

既然有了自己的網站…那麼就把以前的遊記轉載過來,但圖就懶得處理了。

住在Sioux Falls, SD的友人早前說要是要探望他就要在六月頭前找他,看看月曆,大約是五月尾最合適了吧。於是定了日子,順道看看Omaha, NE,找找風琴教授。這也是到Florida之前在Midwest的最後一次旅行。

只是…旅程剛開始就出了小意外。小車的Cruise Control失靈了。在高速公路駛了三個小時,在休憩站停泊時發現車有點難剎掣…park了以後引擎竟然開始以極速加速…嚇了一跳之後立刻關掉引擎,幸而車子沒大礙。平伏心情以後通了幾道電話,縮短了旅程(但其實…也許沒關係),再駛到Sioux Falls。IMG_1589

IMG_1585Sioux Falls據說是South Dakota的最大城鎮,但也許那兒比Overland Park更小。大部份主要地方距離Downtown都是在半小時步程之內。Downtown 有很多有特色的小店,但隔兩個街口就已經是金融區。說不上有甚麼特色。但為了見老朋友,足矣。這兒最大的景點大約是Falls Park吧。很明顯地,政府用了很多資源美化這公園,而這兒又真的很美麗。但是水是臭的,走近一點的話衣服就遭殃。IMG_1769

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?

回程是短暫留在Omaha,本來這應該是要多留一點時間的一站,但IMG_1997不同原因之下我只是留了幾個小時。教授載我四處走,才知道Warren Buffett就是在Omaha,而且他和太太和Buffett有過一面之緣。Omaha和Lincoln也給我很相似的印象-舊區很有工業的餘韻,而藝術在這兒很蓬勃。而Omaha也開始起飛了吧。對比起Kansas City,60-70年代的建築在這兒還是主數,但新式建築也在慢慢增加。

IMG_1884教授太太在St. Cecilia Cathedral工作,然而在這音樂主保的主教座堂,又怎會沒有音樂學校。那規模有點誇張。座堂裡的風琴也是很特別的一部琴。IMG_1888Pasi在設計時,把Well-tempered stops和mean tone stops設計在一起,所以風琴師可以按喜好用不同的調律演奏。一直覺得音律這回事很複雜,而它真的是很複雜,但聽起來,well-tempered和mean tone的確是兩回事,pure thirds聽起來真的很舒服。但限制也太多了。它…就留在復古的東西吧。

我在Omaha Zoo逗留了一會。魚還是我最愛的動物。其他展館真的不俗,但我真的沒太大興趣。這些日子很多友人貼了不少反對開設動物園的東西。我明白。看著動物們在有限、虛擬的空間生活實在令人不忍。但是,城市的小孩,沒有了動物園,畏首畏尾的家長們會讓孩子接近大自然麼?孩子們不看見這Biodiversity,會相信牠們處於危機麼?

寫在六月三日,世界很亂,問題很多。一切也沒有令人折服的解釋。

 

Hon Ki, BMus in Composition, Organ and Theory

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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.

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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.

Year-end reflection

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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.

 

Trio for Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano (2015)

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.



 

A Star Ferry Ride (2016)

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. 

To Thee, With Love — A Cèilidh (2015)

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.

  1. I’ll Love Thee for those Sparkling Eyes — A Country Dance
  2. I’d Shelter Thee, I’d Shelter Thee — An Air
  3. To Love You in the Old High Way of Love — A Hornpipe

Premiered by Margaret Lambie on April 6, 2016.

5 Sketches of Water (2014)

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.

  1. The River
  2. Soft Rain
  3. Snow Flakes
  4. Vapor
  5. Still Water

Recorded by Qichen Jiang in October 2015, premiered by Neal Long on April 6, 2016.