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Music 1.3: Piano and Composition

The musicians will present on Thursday, May 28, at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Mia P. ’22 - Piano

"Selling Sundry Goods" by Peixun Chen

I am playing "Selling Sundry Goods" by Peixun Chen. I liked the difference and spark of culture that was in the piece, as it is a collection of Cantonese melodies. It's a great piece that embodies culture and highlights life. There are distinct parts to the piece, but at the end, it’s all connected as one, kind of like a story of sorts. When listening to the piece, it feels like you’re walking through a street market, one where the culture of that specific area really shines out to you. There are places in the piece where the vibe is more calm or escalated, but it really emphasizes the journey of seeking through something different, and something that you’d like to know more about. When I first heard the piece, I really liked it because it was very different from the other classic pieces that I was looking through, and it ended up really sticking to me at the end of the day. There are traditions and forms in music, but there are also things that swing out a little of what’s usually played. Even if this isn’t a piece that is such a cultural change as there are plenty of more Eastern Asian classics, I think in between all the European pieces in the book I was looking through, this had a more distinct melody to me. 

I think that the success was that I was able to see a large range of different types of music, and a challenge was the practice times as there were some weeks when there wasn't a lot of time to do so.

I grew from just the general concept of being an artist, and of playing because you mean it, not because you are told so. The sort of music I listen to really varies in my mood. In all honesty, I do think that I have a wide range, and I do like searching for new genres that pop out or artists that I like. Classical music wasn’t something that I frequently listened to when I was younger but I started listening to more of it, especially during times of study. Listening to it more gave me more ideas about the pieces or composers I liked and wanted to hear more of. Also being a big fan of reading, I stumbled across a book that talked about a lot of the big classic composers. I feel like I was more drawn to them after I read the book, as it talked a lot of their background, personality, and mindset while they were composing a piece of music. I think the best part of music is that it connects to you, and that it can speak to you, sometimes not even through lyrics but through its melody or the tone that it sets when you listen to it. Everybody has a different peace of mind when they listen to a certain song. Some people might find it sad while others might find it soothing and calm. That’s what I enjoy most about music—that it sparks emotions in people that they might have had the time to know about, and it shows different sides to people depending on how they handle a song. Playing these pieces also conveys your personality and emotions—through how you process the music, how you give it life and how you deliver it to the audience. All the little things that you do to make the piece what it is, and to make the piece yours in a way, is what defines you as a musician, and I wanted to convey my music in a way that makes others think about what they feel.

As I was required to do a specific piece in a specific way, I think the practice of free music was unexpected as I always played for a specific end goal, but now I was at a position where I didn't need to. The fact that the choice of music or the goal of the piece was in my hands and in my control made it freeing to play.

What surprised me this year was the different types of music and the changes in music as time goes by.

Bianca Y. ’20 - Composer/Music Production

"Dream Back to Tang Dynasty"

I have been listening to a lot of Eastern Traditional Music since mid-2018. A melody that I built this piece around popped out to me suddenly one night. I researched and chased back to the origin for Eastern minor chord progressions and Eastern classical instrumentations. Interestingly, the research pointed to one specific Ancient Chinese Period, which I decided to depict my own vision upon—the great Tang Dynasty. 

This production is set in five scenes, giving purpose not to only show the ancestry of Chinese history, but also to depict some important themes/motifs in my life:
  • Scene 1, when the dream began, I imagined a monk using sweeping as a form of Taiji to achieve his inner balance—the Dao. The reoccurring three bell-rings are motifs, a reminiscence of my time at a meditation camp during my 7th-grade summer, which blurs away the border between dream and reality. 
  • Scene 2 is simply a day and night walk along with the worldly street view and market crowd, while on the way to the grand palace. 
  • Scene 3 I added the chanting vocals, which is actually personal to me since I went to the living Buddha and he told me that White Tara is my patron saint, and I repeated the last part of her incantation as a representation for my devotion. This also illustrates a historical aspect when Buddhism was adopted and became popular in China during that time. 
  • Scene 4, the audience is taken into the palace, feasting, laughing, singing, and dancing. An impressive amount of diversity and integration happened during the Tang dynasty while China, in fact, exported numerous local goods and shared our culture with the world. 
  • Scene 5 returns to the initial point, the temple, which depicted my belief in the Eastern circular concept. Eventually, the sound fades away, as the storm is about to arrive. 
This piece means a great deal to me because it is the first time I represented a fuller spectrum of my identity through the creation of music, which is a fusion between my Eastern background and my Western musical education and influences. This piece is an audio file and I'm trying to develop it into an EP, with one concept instead of a single because the idea is too big for one piece. 

A success I had this year was that I was able to become more familiar with LOGIC PRO X, and explore different production tools. A challenge I discovered is that often, it's very difficult to turn melodic ideas into a full work, and sometimes I would run out of ideas and not be able to work during the period of stagnation. I haven't done much ensemble production work but working with my friends on their songs was fun.

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    • Musicians Mia and Bianca share their artist statements

    • Mia P. ’22 - Piano

    • Bianca Y. ’20 - Composer/Music Production

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