Recently went into a short discussion about program notes of contemporary, abstract acoustic pieces (electroacoustic pieces utilizing real-life sound sources will inevitably evoke a different set of expectations and images, not everyone is a fan of, or is capable of extensive reduced listening as advocated by the like of Pierre Shaeffer). Although I admit that most of my program notes, or even titles, only occurred to me as usable after the fact (double bar per se), and sometimes I have to actively search for them; they are not completely irrelevant in that they could usually quite accurately (well... or vaguely) convey the images I "saw" during my compositional process. Coming up with a paragraph of descriptive ideas could certainly enhance the effect of the overall image I try to convey in my music. That being said, I think titles and program notes are parts of the compositional process--writing them are certainly as painful as writing notes.
I am proud to say that I have earned everything by myself, from the start of my music career. School has taught me (beat me to death to teach me) that no one will ever give me an opportunity unless I fight for it. I fought VERY HARD, not because I think I am better than others, but because if I don't fight, I will not survive.
I still remember how miserable I was when I first started my doctoral study at UMKC... I shouldn't have been.
Not that I really believe in myself - actually, I don't believe in myself that much - I never really expected to win anything, and I never thought I deserve any award or stuff; I entered to many competitions nonetheless, not thinking that I might win, but thinking, "this is the only way out."
I have represented UMKC on many occasions, both nationally and internationally. I am, for the first time, proud to say that I deserve this award, the doctoral fellowship from the school. Yes, today I received this good news.
The fact is, if they have had given me a rejection, the world would still go on, and I would have treated it like one of the 200 rejection letters I keep in my email, and forget about it in a minute. Is this sad? am I so desperate? or maybe it's just life.
For the first time in my life, I can pay rent and food for myself. Yup, pathetic graduate student.
Art is essentially useless because it does not contribute to any material gains in this world. During this time of economic hardship, politicians and other literal-minded people urge to eliminate the emphasis of the arts on all levels of society. Obviously, you cannot eat your paintings, music or poetry, but what the arts contribute to this world is, I believe, on a spiritual level, much more meaningful than anything else.
Many have overlooked the vibrant color that arts can bring to their lives because of the immediate attraction of material gains. Today, young people tend to have a short attention span, thus submitting to this attraction, as a direct result of overwhelming technological bloom.
As a young person myself, I am determined to purify my expressive power in a musical way and seek to communicate with others through my artistic endeavor. I am also fascinated with the idea of constructing a body of arts that represents my “other voice.”
Art is about communication; communication is the basis of society; society is the back-bone support for a modern life--art is essential to our living, believe it or not.
The development of human perception in music greatly interests me. For many centuries, it is the general consensus that music, as an expressive tool, is anything but noise or non-organized sounds. This established notion, however, has been challenged by artists such as John Cage (1912-92) and Pierre Schaeffer (1910-95) over the past few decades. Today, the boundary between music and noise is unclear. The inevitable questions thus arise, “What is Music, how do we perceive something as music?” To seek an answer, and to create a new way of musical expression that responds to humanity’s ever-changing musical perception, I have chosen to become a composer.
To me, producing music is an act through which a composer, or “music-maker,” communicates with a listener, or another "music-maker,” with means that express artistry and emotion. If “noise” is used in ways that serve this purpose, it can be regarded as music. Music is expressive because it subjectively transforms concrete ideas into meanings and emotions, hence enabling communications between two or more individuals and the audience. A composer conveys his ideas through specific notations before a performer analyzes and interprets his intentions. To add yet another layer of interpretation, the audience communicates with the music maker through listening to a work. When a recording is concerned, the audio engineer adds his layer of interpretation through mixing and mastering. It is central to my belief that music making is never a lonely process.
Different factors of time and space also contribute to varying one’s perception in music. Two performances of a same piece can never be identical. This notion relates to my own compositional philosophy: I believe in an ongoing process of composition and evolution in music making. No piece is truly “finished” because it will continue to evolve, through time, into something that is beyond the imagination of our generation. This idea of unpredictability in music has truly inspired and influenced my compositional concepts. I am motivated to immerse myself in an ongoing process of music making that can pertain to everyday life and stimulate human communication. The idea of music serving as a tool of communication is central to my belief, and this can be seen in my previous posts on "Composing."
The distinction between music and noise will continue to blur, as we keep exploring the possibilities of sound as a form of art. I feel, as an artist, responsible to help listeners improve their sense of hearing. Perception needs to be developed by conscious effort, by learning to anticipate, to analyze, as well as to listen. Hearing is something we all do unconsciously, like breathing. Everything we hear as is filtered through our experiences, emotional responses, our prejudices and preferences. I became a composer because I want to be perceptive to listen more attentively to music and sound in general, and be able to interpret music intellectually as well as to express my own emotions. I will continue to be a composer for as long as I can find ways to express myself through this medium, and that someone in this universe can perceive my music, or my noise, as music.
I am so frustrated - I wish I am a millionaire, so I can hire all these musicians to play my music... Most of the time, I just want to have a piece played one---at least they get heard---then I can put them aside... I know I am not writing great music, or even good music, but it is my wish that my music is worth hearing at least once. I don't care how many audience I have---hopefully there is more than one---it is my hope that my music says something to my audience. It might be a small audience, but that's fine.
I love to work with performers---it is usually a fantastic opportunity, and it's really fun. It is one of the reasons that keeps me writing more music, but I don't get the chance very often. Sometimes, I think I might better off be a performer to fulfill this wish.
How do I write great music?... no... no... how do I write music that people would like to play?
I am extremely frustrated... I will keep on composing, even if my music doesn't get played, but I have to admit that it is very difficult... very very difficult...
What is a soul? Why does human possess a soul, and animals don't? Do I possess a soul? Do I express my soul through music? Listen to my music and tell me, because I don't know... also tell me what a soul is.
I have come to realize how lucky I really am. My loved ones are all healthy and alive, and I am healthy (maybe...) and alive. This world is simply wonderful. Maybe that's what gives me a soul ---- appreciating life ---- I love it, I enjoy every single moment of it, no matter how much pain/grieve/suffering there might be.
I enjoy being surrounded; I also enjoy being alone; I simply enjoy breathing in the air. Sometimes, the air is melancholy, filled with sorrow, but it is all good, all good. It sounds good ---- melancholy air sounds good. Indeed, every sound is music, and every glimpse is a photograph.
I can feel everything this time; it's like breathing in all the air in the world. Now, the only thing I have left to do is to fart really loud and celebrate the joy of life full of arts. Ain't I funny.
The masterclass today with Jennifer Higdon was very rewarding. She had lots of nice things to say ---- "this song really breeds." She made no suggestion for changes, but she did prefer the altered version with alto saxophone than the original version with clarinet. The Dal Niente ensemble's saxophonist's (Ryan Muncy) interpretation was compelling, and the sound of the instrument really fit the character of the music, but I am also very eager to hear "How Can I Keep from Singing?" with clarinet. I also played "Immortality", and she seemed to like it as well.
The talk that precedes the masterclass and the convocation that follows were both good. She had much encouraging words for the students. It was shocking that she didn't know music at all when she started college in Bowling Green, just like how I started college teaching myself piano... One thing that strikes me the most from the conversation with her, is that, when I asked her how much theory she thinks about when she composes, and she said, NONE ---- it's all intuitive... Well, I've tried both ways, and I've certainly been educated that I should find a balance between my gut and logic. Now, should it all come down to personal preferences? Well, the ultimate judge of my music is the audience ---- COMMUNICATION is the key.
Also, we've talked about the business aspect of being a composer ---- the house keeping crap. Other than that, I remember asking her, "how do you usually start a piece?" "Daydream, a lot," she said. I can't agree more. As a composer, we think about sound ALL the time. Just like all the other arts ---- a visual artist probably sees lines and shapes at all time; a script writer imagines his/her own life as a script...
There is too much to learn in music ---- it is an eternal learning process, and it is awesome!
I love photographing in severe situations ---- raining heavily, thick mist ---- low visibility, etc. A photographer has to actively look for pictures, because the best moment doesn't wait for you, you have to look for it. I think a photographer photographs best with his eyes, and he actively does it at all times ---- and then he picks up a camera and knows exactly what he wants.
Check out the recent pictures in my gallery!
I remember, a few years ago, a professor (not my applied instructor) told me that he hears no musicianship in a piece of mine. I believe it is the worst thing possible to say to a composer. Really, you can say how bad my piece is, be it technical, musical... I am even happy if you hate my music, because I have successfully triggered an emotion in you and that we have communicated with each other successfully... But, he completely denied any musicality in my music. Why then, should this piece, exist? It was also the first time I started to think, why should I be a composer? Am I necessary? Who needs me?
I started to realize that, besides loving music, I have continued to be a musician because I need to prove that I am a necessary existence. This is the same reason why I do photography. I have something to say, and I need an audience, even if there is only one --- even if I am only necessary to one person in this whole world, I am happy.
But, maybe it doesn't matter anymore... as long as my music needs me, and I need music.